A new poll of Internet users in the UK suggests that the music industry has more to lose by chasing music pirates than it could possibly gain.

According to an article over on The Independent, the latest poll - commissioned by Demos and carried out by Ipsos Mori - indicates that those who download music from illegitimate sources such as newsgroups or peer-to-peer networks spend an average of £77 a year on music from legitimate sources, compared to just £33 a year for those who stick to the right side of intellectual property law.

The results of the survey - which questioned 1,000 respondents aged between 16 and 50 - saw an impressive 10 percent of those questioned readily admit to downloading music without permission of the copyright holders. However, it was this group that also spent the most - over double that of Internet users who stick to legitimate sources such as iTunes and Amazon's MP3 store.

The move flies in the face of the industry's concerns regarding file sharing on the Internet - and shines a light on plans to introduce a three-strikes rule to the UK that would see persistent file sharers disconnected from the Internet.

With the results of this survey - which plainly suggest that file sharing actually benefits the creative industries - adding their weight to prior surveys which found that P2P file sharing had little or no effect on sales of music, it could prove difficult for the music industry to continue their campaign of high damage claims and lobbying for tighter controls.

Demos' Peter Bradwell believes that the government's plans - at the behest of the music industry - to introduce a three-strikes rule for file sharers in the UK "will not help prop up an ailing music industry," and claims that "politicians and music companies need to recognise that the nature of music consumption has changed, and consumers are demanding lower prices and easier access" - something that the legitimate download industry is slowly starting to offer.

Do you believe that file sharers could actually increase revenue for the industry, or is every single download a lost sale as the lawsuits so often claim? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

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