Faculty Publications


Myths of the Internet as the Death of Old Media

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This article analyzes claims that the Internet is destroying the book publishing, music, and movie industries, and that it needs to be strictly regulated by civil and criminal copyright laws to save companies and jobs. I survey empirical evidence that copyright industry sales and profits have increased, that economic trends other than infringement on the Internet drive fluctuations in music sales, and that the incentives to produce copyrighted work do not respond directly to minor variations in copyright doctrine or to significant new copyright enforcement laws.

The article analyzes ten fundamental myths used to justify Internet censorship and draconian copyright reforms. Four of these myths concern the allegedly negative relationship between Internet usage of various kinds and declining profitability or sales at old media firms. Three of the myths are designed to motivate Congress or the courts to endorse restrictions on Internet content using the justification that old media will benefit from such restrictions, thereby creating jobs and economic growth. The final three myths involve false assumptions that criminalizing Internet activity will save old media firms. Among other evidence that is useful to dispel these myths, this article examines: book and audiovisual media consumption in the aggregate; the continued growth of old-media entertainment sales such as books, music transactions, and entertainment subscriptions or admissions despite massive growth in Internet use since 1994; the findings of regression analyses exploring the relationship between Internet file-sharing software use and the music industry’s retail sales; socioeconomic trends other than Internet use that may explain changes in the level of music sales in the United States; an empirical disconnect between the level of Internet-based infringement of recording industry copyrights and the level of U.S. record labels’ sales; the sales, total employment, profits, and market capitalization of firms in the U.S. film and television sectors in an environment of large-scale Internet-based copyright infringement; survey results suggesting that musicians may not see music file-sharing as having a severe impact on their livelihoods; the effects of copyright term extension on the number of feature films released and the aggregate investment in creating and marketing them in the United States, as well as on the number of films released in Europe; the lack of a correlation between copyright criminalization and subsequent reductions in Internet-based infringement in the United States; and the benefits, if any, of a draconian new copyright-enforcement regime in France from the standpoint of film and music production and sales.