Did the RIAA's Prosecution of Music Piracy Impact Music Sales?


Between 2004 and 2009 it is estimated that over 30 billion songs were downloaded illegally on different peer-to-peer sharing networks according to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). In an attempt to stop this during the late 1990's and early 2000s the RIAA and other music labels engaged in a very public and vigorous campaign of prosecution of firms, such as Napster and Limewire, for copyright violations in order to reduce piracy. Due to the public backlash, in late 2008 the RIAA announced that they would begin to stop litigation on a grand scale. This paper examines the impact that this model of piracy prosecution had on music sales. We find evidence that the RIAA's model of litigation actually backfired and led to decreased legitimate album sales. Additionally, we find that variation in per capita seasonally adjusted album sales cannot be explained by the existence of both Limewire and Napster file sharing services.



Document Type




Publication Date


Recommended Citation

Mitchell, David M., C. Patrick Scott, and Keneth H. Brown. "Did the RIAA’s Prosecution of Music Piracy Impact Music Sales?." Atlantic Economic Journal 46, no. 1 (2018): 59-71.