Research from the European Commission has found a negligable but "positive link" between online piracy and visits to legal music stores, and concludes that piracy "should not be seen as a growing concern" for digital business.
It also, however, says that the findings do not contradict previous reports showing physical sales displacement.
The research, based on a 16,000-person European sample from the The Institute for Prospective Technological Studies, has suggested that piracy doesn’t hurt digital music revenues.
The data suggested that overall, piracy has a positive effect on music sales and that sales would have been lower, assuming causal interpretation, had illegal downloading websites be absent, as the paper states: “It seems that the majority of the music that is consumed illegally by the individuals in our sample would not have been purchased if illegal downloading websites were not available to them.”
“If this estimate is given a causal interpretation, it means that clicks on legal purchase websites would have been two percent lower in the absence of illegal downloading websites.
The research also highlighted legal streaming and the link to digital music purchases which was said to amount to 7%.
The paper concludes: “Taken at face value, our findings indicate that digital music piracy does not displace legal music purchases in digital format. This means that although there is trespassing of private property rights, there is unlikely to be much harm done on digital music revenues.”
It adds that results show "the vast majority of the music that is consumed illegally by the individuals in [the sample] would not have been legally purchased if illegal downloading websites were not available.
“From that perspective, our findings suggest that digital music piracy should not be viewed as a growing concern for copyright holders in the digital era. In addition, our results indicate that new music consumption channels such as online streaming positively affect copyrights owners.”
It's important to note that the report says that its findings do not contradict earlier research which found substantial amounts of sales displacement of legal physical music sales by illegal digital downloads.