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P2P study: Music crackdown is bad for business

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Instead of enforcement, the study implies that copyright holders should view P2P file sharing as a new kind of broadcast medium, one which should be licensed. A legitimate market, in other words.

"If sellers sell it, it might never be bought. But if the swappers offer it, at least one person will likely take it," the authors point out.

Polls suggest many music fans would gladly pay for such a service. The University of Hertfordshire last year found over 80 per cent interested in voluntarily paying for services which offered exchanges of sound recordings, and a survey of music fans in Sweden - home of The Pirate Bay - found that over 86 per cent would cough up: over half the sample would pay up to £12 a month.

The world's first voluntary P2P service was due this spring from UK cable giant Virgin, but the ISP suspended the initiative late in the day due to record company nervousness.

Although they are loathe to acknowledge the "try before you buy" aspect of P2P, labels are well aware of it - and understandably want their most popular investments (artists who are played dozens of time at home) to command more than somebody who is song may be downloaded, hoarded, and never listened to once.

That's a tough nut to crack, and since consumers won't stand for intrusive play counting technology, is probably solved by pricing reform. But it's not a problem the major labels want to address. This week the music business renewed its emphasis on enforcement, rather than income growth. ®

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