Questions over government file-sharing study

When Industry Canada came out with a study last week that found file-sharing doesn't lead to reduced CD sales -- and in fact may even lead to an increase in sales among those who download a lot -- it came as a surprise to many, most of all the music industry, which has been arguing for years that downloads are killing the record business. It also came as a surprise to Stan Liebowitz, an economist with the University of Texas, who has been studying the impact that file-sharing and other Internet-related technologies have on music sales for several years, and has repeatedly come to the exact opposite conclusion.

Prof. Liebowitz has been studying the impact of technology on copyright since the 1970s, when he did a study for the Canadian government looking at the effect of photocopying on the publishing industry (he concluded that it would not have an overly negative effect). He also wrote a study in 1985 looking at a new technology called the VCR, and has done research that he says shows radio also contributes to lower sales of traditional records and CDs. On his website, Prof. Liebowitz takes issue with the study done by two researchers at the University of London, who were commissioned by Industry Canada. According to the University of Texas economist, who is also a director of the Center for the Economic Analysis of Property Rights and Innovation, the study has a number of methodological problems and also fails what he refers to as "the laugh test."

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