Fresh research means the debate about file-sharing rages on - and we want to hear YOUR views...

Days after the latest claims that Internet music piracy is directly responsible for declining CD sales, a new American independent study has rubbished the allegations.

Last week the Britishmusic industry produced new figures which it says proves, for the first time, that downloaders are spending less on albums and singles than they were a year ago compared to non-downloaders.

But a joint study by researches at two leading US business schools says this is not the case and in certain circumstances downloading can even help boost sales.

Felix Obeholzer-Gee at Harvard Business School and Koleman Strumpf, a professor of Economics at the University of North Carolina, have tracked millions of music files downloaded through the OpenNap peer-to-peer network and compared them with CD sales of the same music.

The researchers monitored nearly 700 albums chosen from a range of musical genres, downloaded over 17 weeks in the second half of 2002. They compared the download figures to changes in album sales over the same period to see if a link could be established.

The study found that in a “worse case scenario” it would take more than 5,000 downloads to reduce album sales by a single copy.

“If this worst-case scenario were true, file sharing would have reduced CD sales by two million copies in 2002. To provide a point of reference, CD sales actually declined by 139 million copies from 2000 to 2002,” claimed the authors.

They even found that downloads can help to sell the most popular CDs – for the top 25% best-selling albums, 150 downloads increased sales by one copy.

Professor Strumpf added that the American music industry’s campaign of legal action against file-sharers which began last September, is likely to prove ineffective.

Last week the BPI launched an instant messaging campaign warning UK downloaders that they risk prosecution if they continued with their actions.

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