Study Finds Digital Pirates are Nearly a Third More Likely to Purchase Music

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has long sought to demonize file sharers who download, trade, and share songs illegally, noting that the cumulative impact of their deeds  -- obtaining millions of songs illegally -- is nothing short of devastating. But is it really? A new study throws a wrinkle in the RIAA's argument.

Before we go any further, let us be clear -- we're not condoning piracy of any kind, nor do we encourage anyone to seek out copyrighted content of any kind by illegal means. That said, we find the results of a study conducted by the American Assembly, a national non-partisan public affairs forum related to Columbia University, to be rather fascinating.

P2P Graph

AA, as we'll call the organization from here on out, analyzed the music collection of individuals living in the U.S. and Germany. There's a lot of data to parse, but what we're most interested in is the section that deals with peer-to-peer (P2P) users. Not surprisingly, P2P users on average boast larger music collections than people who don't share files, due to higher levels of "downloading for free" and "copying from friends/family." However, this same group is also much more likely to go out and purchase music.

"Some of it also comes from significantly higher legal purchases of digital music than their non-P2P using peers–around 30 percent higher among U.S. P2P users," AA noted. "Our data is quite clear on this point and lines up with numerous other studies: The biggest music pirates are also the biggest spenders on recorded music."

We bolded that last line for emphasis, both because it's interesting, and also because it challenges the notion that illegal file sharers have a devastating impact on music sales. As for German P2P users, they buy nearly three times as much digital music as their non-P2P using peers, AA says.

Are you surprised by this?