Perhaps the days of the general file sharing nodes, like piratebay, isohunt, or even mininova are over. But certainly not the days of unregulated file-sharing. As far as one can tell, private-trackers are thriving and now the founder of isohunt is creating a new system called hexagon.cc which centers around the ability of users to create groups of people with whom they want to share.
On Februry 18, a report commissioned by the ministry of Economic Affairs, the Justice Department and the ministry of Education Culture and Science called "Ups and downs Economic and cultural effects of file sharing on music, film and games" was released. A few days ago, the official English translation was released as well.
The research shows that the economic implications of file sharing for welfare in the Netherlands are strongly positive in the short and long terms. File sharing provides consumers with access to a broad range of cultural products, which typically raises welfare. Conversely, the practice is believed to result in a decline in sales of CDs, DVDs and games.
Determining the impact of unlicensed downloading on the purchase of paid content is a tricky exercise. In the music industry, one track downloaded does not imply one less track sold. Many music sharers would not buy as many CDs at today’s prices if downloading were no longer possible, either because they cannot afford it or because they have other budgetary priorities: they lack purchasing power. At the same time, we see that many people download tracks to get to know new music (sampling) and eventually buy the CD if they like it. To the extent that file sharing does result in a decline in sales (substitution), it usually entails a transfer of welfare from producers to consumers. With estimated welfare gains accruing to consumers totalling around €200 million a year in the Netherlands, music producers and publishers suffer turnover losses of at most €100 million a year. These calculations are necessarily based on several assumptions and contain uncertainties as many of the underlying data are not precisely known. Whereas comparable figures cannot be provided for the film and games industries, they follow a similar logic.
The Register has an interesting survey concerning the use of p2p file sharing (the sample, though, is quite small, 773 people, no word on how they were selected.)
A fascinating survey of music consumption conducted for British Music Rights has good and bad news for the beleaguered music business.