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What Various Studies Really Reveal About File-Sharing 285

Dangerous_Minds writes "Drew Wilson of ZeroPaid has an interesting look at file-sharing. It all started with a review of a Phoenix study that was used to promote SOPA. Wilson says that the study was long on wild claims and short on fact. While most writers would simply criticize the study and move on, Wilson took it a step further and looked in to what file-sharing studies have really been saying throughout the years. What he found was an impressive 19 of 20 studies not getting any coverage. He launched a large series detailing what these studies have to say on file-sharing. The first study suggests that file-sharing litigation was a failure. The second study said that p2p has no effect on music sales. The third study found that the RIAA suppresses innovation. The fourth study says that the MPAA has simply been trying to preserve its oligopoly. The fifth study says that even when one uses the methodology of one download means one lost sale, the losses amount to less than $2 per album. The studies, so far, are being posted on a daily basis and are certainly worth the read."
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What Various Studies Really Reveal About File-Sharing

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 07, 2012 @02:06AM (#39912983)
    I know anecdotes don't mean much but...

    I was in university (and poor) when Napster became popular and I stopped paying for music. I have money now but the habit kind of stuck and I haven't paid for music since; I know many people who are the same way. I'm pretty sure that P2P has cost the music industry hundreds of dollars from me personally over the last 14 years.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 07, 2012 @02:16AM (#39913025)

      Cost the music distribution industry, perhaps. What about the statistics on the actual artists?

      • by chilvence ( 1210312 ) on Monday May 07, 2012 @05:12AM (#39913637)

        Thankyou, for stating the obvious :). I know that statement seems sarcastic, but it is the one thing people seem to so easily overlook. Not only is the music distribution industry redundant, the only thing it seems to be good for in my mind is promoting gutter trash like Justin Bieber, which most likely would never fly on its own.

        Piracy may not be 100% right, but neither is expecting to get mega rich off the back of the general scumbag population just because you can do something that resembles actual music.

        • by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Monday May 07, 2012 @08:29AM (#39914207)

          Piracy may not be 100% right

          I disagree -- it reflects the technological realities of the 21st century. Your statement is on the level of, "Printing presses may not be 100% right..."

          What we really need is a system that uses file sharing in a positive way. Songs could include information about when and where concerts will be held, various merchandise for the band, and so forth. Technology has rendered the recording industry and the copyright system as a whole entirely obsolete.

      • by Stirling Newberry ( 848268 ) on Monday May 07, 2012 @07:22AM (#39913957) Homepage Journal
        The vast majority of musicians and composers make no royalties at all, and of the rest, most do not make enough to live performing or composing. Copyright is a benefit to "the .1%" and not very much benefit to others.

        I say this as someone who has actually gotten royalties. Artists, in general, must either work for nothing, or sign away their rights as part of getting distribution.

        Copyright is about pipes, not content, in that corporate entities get the vast majority of royalties, directly, or indirectly in that they charge recording artists for "services" out of royalties. The pipe owners, as owners of rights of way often do, take virtually all the value of what is moved over them. And in our case are demanding a surveillance state enforce their ownership, as happened, for example, with the railroads in the 19th century. The people who own the pipes should be paid, but not at the cost of basic liberties. If someone cannot be paid without infringing on basic liberties, what they are doing probably isn't worth what they think they should be paid. The problem with making information rival and exclusive is that it more valuable generally as neither, and since it does not have a good physical analog, chain of possession does not make a good proxy for ownership.

        What needs to be paid for then, is not really the artists in most cases, but the entire expensive apparatus of creating large artifacts, and distributing them, which means as much crowding out smaller footprint forms of art. There are thousands of people in the recording industry making a good living off of WA Mozart, none of them, however, are WA Mozart. Bartok's estate still gets royalties, but that does not help Bela Bartok. For all the good that the copyright system does most artists, they might as well be dead. However it takes legions of people to control and promote pop art, and without the huge flow of money associated with mass media, they would not exist, and could not be paid. Nor could media moghuls like Murdoch afford to buy and sell politicians. The money does not pay for art, but to support a system which is, at this point, largely about itself.

        While the current intensive pop system could not survive without copyright, a knowledge based system can. If our goal was paying artists, the system created would not look anything like the present perpetual copyright with a spy state enforcing it. We also wouldn't ever use the term "intellectual property" because it would be an obvious oxymoron.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      On the flipside, I never used to pay for music at all - ever. I either copied from friends, or downloaded. Now I'm working and have money, and using Spotify Premium (€10 a month) since it came available.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 07, 2012 @02:18AM (#39913041)

      And for every few albums I've downloaded, I've heard an musician I never would have otherwise, bought their album and gone to see their show when they come to town.

      So the mediocre loose... but the talented, perhaps unappreciated, artists who don't get corporate radio airtime win.

    • by SeaFox ( 739806 ) on Monday May 07, 2012 @02:21AM (#39913047)

      Yes, but filesharing also means many people were exposed to music they might not have been otherwise, and of those there is a group who despite downloading an album will still go buy it (or buy a special limited edition version for an upgrade) to support the artist they are now a fan of.

      Those extra sales will counteract the losses of the "I don't pay for anything" pirates.

    • by Belial6 ( 794905 ) on Monday May 07, 2012 @02:23AM (#39913061)
      When Napster came out, I tried it, and within a couple of days, I found that it wasn't worth my time. On the other hand, once Sony started infecting computers with malware from music CDs, I stopped buying music at all.
    • by Dragoniel ( 2633331 ) on Monday May 07, 2012 @02:24AM (#39913067)
      Precisely because of "free" music and videos I heard many albums nobody I know heard of and saw movies that aren't available in my country and never will be. That's one thing corporations doesn't care about. But there is more - I would never have paid for any music or movies I downloaded anyway, because I can't afford it. So, how much actual money the corporations actually lost? Big fat zero. There goes your numbers. I buy content that is worth buying. Sometimes I download something and then buy it later, because it's worth it. Sometimes I don't - but it doesn't mean they lost money because I didn't - I wouldn't have paid without trying in the first place. Period.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 07, 2012 @02:32AM (#39913097)

      File sharing didn't cost the Mafiaa cartels anything from me, their own actions have.

      I will not EVER pay for their produced/distributed content again, because by doing so I would be helping fund a war on the free internet, lawsuits waged on their own customers, and bought legislation to stifle innovation.

      Plus p2p file-sharing gives a better product without bullshit like unskippable ads, DRM, and idiotic FBI warnings on legally purchased media.

      • even better. Australian DVD's - which are region locked to prevent us from using oversea's ones (ie paying less then 1/2 what they charge here) still have FBI warnings on them, they can't even bother to put the Australian warnings on them these days!
        • by mrjb ( 547783 )
          Same in Europe. Not that I mind. The FBI warning is entirely non-intrusive compared to the techno-ridden, flashing, non-fast-forwardable "PIRACY. IT'S A CRIME" clip that we have to put up with if we actually pay for our media. One more reason not to.
          • Same in Europe. Not that I mind. The FBI warning is entirely non-intrusive compared to the techno-ridden, flashing, non-fast-forwardable "PIRACY. IT'S A CRIME" clip that we have to put up with if we actually pay for our media. One more reason not to.

            This is one of the reasons I rip a DVD immediately on buying it [*]. All the unskippable trash can be removed and we just get the movie from the media server.

            [*] I buy a handful of DVDs per year, but always from the bargain bins where the price is something below euro10. As new releases, they're always grossly overpriced, often around euro15-20 for DVD (or euro25-35 for BD).

            • This is one of the reasons I rip a DVD immediately on buying it [*]. All the unskippable trash can be removed and we just get the movie from the media server.

              That's the great irony of it... the pirates never see the FBI warning and "don't steal this" crap, because it's not part of the main film.

              Of course, you do miss out on some of the "unskippable" content that, on rare occasions, can be quite funny. They put an ad for Windex at the start of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, for example... and the ad for Head & Shoulders at the end of Evolution. Shameless marketing, but in both cases, it's pertinent to the movie in question, and actually pretty funny... :) 99.99999

      • by fa2k ( 881632 )

        Plus p2p file-sharing gives a better product without bullshit like unskippable ads, DRM, and idiotic FBI warnings on legally purchased media.

        The music industry isn't that bad in terms of freedom. It's possible to buy high-quality DRM-free music files at sites like iTunes, Amazon, Beatport, etc. The streaming sites/apps are arguably easier to use than both legal and pirated downloads, so they are in a separate category (still not well enough developed licensing that I can trust them as my only source of music). Your point about not supporting the war on the free internet is a very interesting one, but I think the movie industry is much worse, the

        • by fa2k ( 881632 )
          Sorry to reply to myself, but I have a comment about OS support;

          It's possible to buy high-quality DRM-free music files[...]

          iTunes is not supported on Linux, and works horribly in Wine. Amazon MP3 have downloaders for some old 32-bit versions of Linux, which is quite useless, but their Windows downloader works fine under Wine (it invokes iTunes by default, but that can be disabled). Ubuntu One MP3 is only supported on Ubuntu and Windows! (AFAICT), so no luck on other OSes/distros. Sound can probably be set up to work in Wine or in a VM, but I find it's better to use

          • by bipbop ( 1144919 )

            Mindawn has been around for a while (I've been using them since 2007 or so). They sell FLAC and OGG and have always worked fine on Linux. If you're mostly into major label stuff, it probably won't have much of anything you want, but they have lots of cool indie/prog.

        • by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Monday May 07, 2012 @08:07AM (#39914055)

          The music industry isn't that bad in terms of freedom

          In the late 90s, the RIAA asked researchers in the security community to evaluate SDMI, essentially a DRM system for CDs that was supposed to be built into every music player:


          Researchers who attempted to publish their work on SDMI, even those who did not agree to the confidentiality requirement, were threatened by the RIAA. Thankfully, SDMI ultimately died and the researchers were able to publish -- after the government assured them that the DMCA protected their ability to publish their work.

          So where is the RIAA today? Pushing for every more restrictive copyrights and paracopyright laws. Attacking other countries for not having restrictive copyrights. They have toned down their attacks on file sharers because the attacks were a waste of their money and were losing them whatever public sympathy they had left. The RIAA is as bad when it comes to respecting freedom as the MPAA.

        • by bipbop ( 1144919 )

          it almost seems good to support the music industry in comparison to Hollywod.

          Yeah, demonizing the music industry has worked a lot better than the movie industry, even though the movie industry is a hell of a lot more evil. How many people do you know that proudly declare they won't pay for music? Now compare it to how many people you know who decided not to go see Avengers this weekend, because they don't want to support Hollywood.

    • by XiaoMing ( 1574363 ) on Monday May 07, 2012 @02:32AM (#39913099)

      This is science at its best. Not only can you not cherry-pick your data to make a conclusive paper, but you also really shouldn't cherry-pick papers to make a conclusion (or vice versa) in life.

      Keep in mind that the conclusion you are the living counter-example of is from one study out of many, and that the final study which directly relates one download to one lost sale (the most conservative estimate you can make) arrived at a loss of less than $2/album sold. So that means that even if not everyone were like you, the loss really becomes a sliding scale from $0-$2 per album.

      You take all of the papers into account, and a larger pattern does emerge: Yes, any record that goes gold (500k sales) or platinum (1M sales) will see roughly ~$1M-$2M in losses. ( )
      At the same time, we know that artists are thriving in this environment []

      What does one do with these conclusions? Well that really depends on who you are: If you're the corporation, you obviously tighten your group and try to squish indie label companies for the sake of the bottom line (and in spite of artistic creativity). If you're the musician, you could "sell-out" because being well known, even if via overproduction and sheer marketing and autotuning, was your life goal, or you can maybe find a nice indie label that will help develop you for you. If you're Fox News, you defend the corporation because they're people too, who cares about our neighbors!

      And as the average consumer? Well I guess I'm always impressed by the number of people defending corporations and what they think is "capitalism" in this day and age, when it's really resembling more and more a conspiracy by all the companies to screw over the consumers, rather than a competition to win their favor.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 07, 2012 @03:34AM (#39913323)

        I'm always impressed by the number of people defending corporations and what they think is "capitalism" in this day and age

        It has never been capitalism. Capitalism requires a fully informed and equal-opportunity market. Copyright, by its very definition, has nothing to do with equal opportunity. As for fully informed, well, you need a functioning education system for that.

    • by toejam13 ( 958243 ) on Monday May 07, 2012 @02:56AM (#39913191)

      I'm just the opposite. By obtaining music through alternative channels, my CD collection eventually quadrupled in size (now over 300 discs).

      One benefit was that I was exposed to a huge number of artists who receive little to no airplay by traditional terrestrial radio broadcasting. I'm not a fan of the soulless generic music that dominates most of the airwaves, so this was a very significant thing for me. When I discovered a new group I really liked, I'd go hit up an online retailer. Their recommendation system would then steer me towards other similar artists I had barely heard of. I'd then go back to the well to grab some of their music. Rinse and repeat.

      Another benefit was identification. There used to be a huge number of songs from the '70s - '90s I really liked, but never knew their name. Thanks to an ID tag on a digital music file, I now knew the name of the artist and song and could go buy the album through a retailer. No more mistaking the music of one artist for another.

      As online retailers have moved away from 20 second 32kbps previews to song clips of longer duration and better quality, it is just getting easier to use their sites to preview. But nothing beats the convenience of those alternative channels.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I was in university (and poor) when Napster became popular and I stopped paying for music. I have money now but the habit kind of stuck and I haven't paid for music since; I know many people who are the same way

      Before I was in university I didn't buy a single record, simply because I didn't like the crap that was being pushed through the radio (all radio). Both napster and new friends helped me to find music that I actually like. These days, I go to 3-4 concerts and 2 festivals a year.

      Yes, I do download. Still, most of my music collection comes from CD rips, either from friends' or the library (which is legal in my country).

    • I was in university (and poor) when Napster became popular and I stopped paying for music. I have money now but the habit kind of stuck and I haven't paid for music since; I know many people who are the same way. I'm pretty sure that P2P has cost the music industry hundreds of dollars from me personally over the last 14 years.

      I know how you feel. I remember when I decided that records were basically overpriced crap and that I didn't feel like spending any more money on them. And I haven't. Except for the

    • by mrjb ( 547783 )

      I'm pretty sure that P2P has cost the music industry hundreds of dollars from me personally over the last 14 years.

      I'm sure I've cost the music industry hundreds as well, but for entirely different reasons. The litigation around the Napster thing made me realize what a bunch of scumbags the music industry really are. I've still paid for music, of course. I've got some CDs at charity shops. Others directly from independent artists. At least like that the money is going where I want it to. I've come to appre

    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      Pre-napster, you most likely would have just done without while in university and poor or made a few tapes from friends and perhaps play the radio more. THAT would be the new habit you would have kept even when you had money again.

      Of course, you're in a new demographic now that has always spent less of it's disposable income on music than younger people.

    • I dunno, I'd say I'm up slightly.

      It's hard to say though, some years ago I just stopped looking out for new music - free or paid. I think the principal issue is that I'd rather kill a few minutes playing a brainless app than listening to some new music.

    • by Eraesr ( 1629799 )
      The question is though, have they lost hundreds of dollars from you because P2P has been available, or because their own distribution methods are really, really expensive and inconvenient for you?
    • by msimm ( 580077 ) on Monday May 07, 2012 @05:25AM (#39913691) Homepage

      hundreds of dollars from me personally over the last 14 years

      Nothing personal, but the only thing this anecdote underlines is the fact that you'd have been a marginal consumer in the first place.

      As another (counter?) anecdote: I've spent hundreds of dollars every year for the past 14 years (or so) and like yourself, I'm an avid downloader of music.

      Not to parrot popular sentiment, but I believe the music industry is slowly strangling itself with the protectivist measures it continues to take. I don't listen to loads of top "" music but I think as more and more people get 'geeky' the alternatives, which focus almost 100% on the consumer side of the experience, become more and more acceptable.

      They could drop margins, shift focus to the consumer, and see what happens. Or they could not, maintain some heavy-handed control...and see what happens.

      Oddly, one of the best genres to result from the post-consumer digital pop-music age is bootleg remixes. Which introduces me to consumer oriented music I might no have otherwise listened to. And of course violates copyright.

      • by bipbop ( 1144919 )
        I think it's also possible that the loudness wars are a contributing factor. Some new music crushed by the studios has an RMS around -4dB (N.B. that's AES-17 RMS, so -7dB if you measure without the offset). Why pay for music you can't enjoy?
    • OTOH, I buy lots more music now, a mix of CDs and downloaded tracks from Amazon - mainly the latter unless the CD offers something special. I listen to a radio show in the UK (6 Music) and buy Mojo Magazine which expose me to lots of ideas for new bands to check out.
      I used to hammer Napster back in the day but that was mainly to download rare stuff you simply couldn't buy period or was unavailable in my country.
      I have sometimes treated downloads as try before you buy - for instance I d/l all of the West
    • by Sique ( 173459 )

      For me, it's completely the reverse. I never bought much music, I never was on Napster, I don't use P2P except for downloading Linux distributions and similar stuff, I don't listen to music radio stations (and I only listen to radio anyway if I am driving, and then it's mostly news radio), I was never much of a customer to musicians. I couldn't care less about their copyrights, their means to generate income or whatever their business model is. The same goes for movies, my children own many more DVDs than I

    • by nospam007 ( 722110 ) * on Monday May 07, 2012 @06:56AM (#39913911)

      "I'm pretty sure that P2P has cost the music industry hundreds of dollars from me personally over the last 14 years."

      The personal music taste is getting somewhat fixed when you're around 14 years old. So the music I downloaded was more or less from that period. I bought their vinyl albums and singles several times, since they don't survive younger siblings and teenager's care very much. I also bought 8-tracks of the very same groups for my car. (yes, I'm that old) Later I bought cassettes and CDs of again the very same albums, some of them several times because I always forgot to lock my (crappy anyway) car in these times not to mention that cassettes got eaten by the player regularly.
      After having bought some albums up to 6 or 7 times, I really don't have any conscience problems for having downloaded those.
      After all it was me that paid for the sex and drugs of these guys in the sixties, seventies and eighties. I don't see why I should also be responsible for their pension plan.
      Enough is enough.

    • by brunes69 ( 86786 )

      I was also in university when P2P became popular and I also never buy music now. But it has nothing to do with P2P.. it has a lot more to do with the fact that LEGAL music is available for free everywhere now. It is not like it was when we were young and if you wanted to listen to music in your room you had to have a truckload of CDs or tapes - nowadays kids just fire up YouTube or one of the 100 digital music channels people get for free with their TV service.

    • You could say it like that. Or, you could simply say "I no longer feel the need." For decades, I paid for or lived in a home where cable TV was paid for. As life became more difficult, I resorted to bribing the installers when they installed internet and this last go around, the installer wouldn't take the bribe. The result was an eye-opener. I no longer need cable... and I see now that I never did.

      In the past, I have bought music... long, long ago. Money has not been lost on me.

      Anyway, we know what t

    • The study says that the "negative" effects are completely balanced by the "positive" effects. In other words, every dollar you did not spend was still spent by others elsewhere.
    • Even if it has influence on music sales, the actual artists don't get significantly less money than before. The main people that suffer are the RIAA executives, the people at the record companies and the physical record stores. The people in the record stores suffer anyway, since legal sales all happen online now, so it's only the RIAA executives and the people at the record company that are the victim of piracy. Why aren't the artist victim here? Because they already got almost nothing out of record sales
    • RIAA's evil tactics have cost them far more music sales than P2P have. Every time I hear an album I'd like to buy, I think "I wish I could buy directly from the artist to avoid paying the RIAA"... and I don't buy the album.
    • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

      When I was in college (and poor) I bought used music from a number of off-campus music stores that catered to poor college students. Used albums could be purchased for as little as $1.

      You simply don't need Napster to engage in "payment avoidance".

      Are you going to suggest that we overturn the First Sale doctrine next?

  • Cost who? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by surd1618 ( 1878068 ) on Monday May 07, 2012 @02:17AM (#39913031) Journal
    Pressing millions of copies of a musician's studio-crafted single-- highly exploitative practice that took the hard work of the most compliant musicians they could find. The musicians who manage to game the music industry are just as rare, per capita, as the consumers who actually seek out what they want rather than what they are force-fed by media outlets. This has been true for sixty years.

    I have paid musicians for copies of their music that came with personalized notes, or shout-outs that included my name, or logo-printed kazoos, and lots of actual art included. A few artists have come up with products that people might be into e.g. Beck putting a bunch of custom stickers in one of his albums instead of cover art.

    Basically I think that the record-funded music industry has been the anomaly, not the corrective factor that the internet introduces into the industry.
  • by Grayhand ( 2610049 ) on Monday May 07, 2012 @04:23AM (#39913457)
    Seems like a lot of wasted space. The bulk of the Slashdot community will never change their opinion and the other side won't change their opinion. The arguments are always the same so why is the subject matter worthy of three posts in a row? Yes they are slightly different but the responses aren't. We might as well run three posts in a row on Evolution verses Creationism. I'm not trying to troll but it seems like the whole thread ends up being redundant and we're into the second decade of the debate. There just has to be other tech stories to cover. There's lots of cool stuff going on in the maker community. Things like the Cube bringing slick professional 3D printing at an afordable price $1,299. [] Or a $249 vacuum former kit. [] It just seems there's more happening in the tech world than limiting copyrights and the downloading fight. If some one comes up with a fresh slant on the subject I'm thrilled to hear it but the two sides are so far apart I don't see any compromise in the near future if ever. Just saying to the editors can we keep it to a couple of stories a day and space them out a bit?
  • Who are these guys? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Open up google and put in the following line:
    "T. Randolph Beard" "George S. Ford" "Lawrence J. Spiwak"

    Doing a quick google search using the names in the article shows something interesting. Articles on telecommunications, wireless, net neutrality threats, and a bunch of other stuff. What also pops up is this strange organization called Phoenix Center.

    T. Randolph Beard (Professor of Economics, Auburn University)
    George S. Ford (Chief Economist, Phoenix Center for Advanced Legal & Economic Public Policy

  • by Hentes ( 2461350 ) on Monday May 07, 2012 @05:25AM (#39913693)

    Given the creative accounting of the entertainment industry, it's impossible to get meaningful numbers for a research like this. But then again, until they become frank with society, they shouldn't ask for any legislatory help from society either. The right thing to do would be to tell the entertainment industry to come clean with their numbers, otherwise no copyright enforcement law will be based on an informed decision. If they refuse, then just let them die, assuming they really are dying.

  • As a Member of the European Parliament for the Swedish Pirate Party, I have just published a short book (108 pages) on copyright reform together with Rick Falkvinge, who is the founder of the first and Swedish Pirate party.

    The studies mentioned here seem to paint exactly the same picture as a number of studies that we refer to in that book. File sharing is not hurting revenues for the cultural sector. When we look at statistics for the last decade, with rampant file sharing on the internet, we see that more money is going into film, music, books, games and other culture than ever before, and that a larger portion of it is going to the artists and other creative people involved (as opposed to middle men such as the big record companies).

    Two weeks ago we had a book launch for "The Case for Copyright Reform" in the European Parliament, and I have distributed a paper copy of it to each of the 754 MEPs (Members of the European Parliament).

    Now all that remains to be seen is how many of my colleagues in the parliament will actually read it, but that's another story. ;)

    If you are interested in checking out the book, you can download "The Case for Copyright Reform" (for free, obviously) from [] You can also order a paper copy at cost price via print-on-demand, if you prefer that.

    It is time that we start looking at copyright legislation in a fact-based manner, as opposed to the IPR fundamentalist way that has been dominant in this policy area so far on both sides of the Atlantic.

    There is a better way.

    • So, got a schedule for the big world takeover? Really, I haven't seen even the faintest sign of fact-based ANYTHING in this country since 1980. Things are starting to go seriously wrong...

  • The question I'm always left asking is this: "Should artists be paid for recordings?"

    In days past, performers made money for performing. They still do. There were no recordings on which to profit.

    If ALL music were free as in beer and free as in liberty, surely artists would make less money. But would they go bankrupt? Many would still be multi-millionaires from concert ticket sales and merchandise alone. These would be the same artists with or without iTunes and CD sales.

    So I ask: Should artists be paid for recordings? I think the answer is "No."

Experience varies directly with equipment ruined.