According to an article by Ken Fisher over at Ars Technica, “A new study in the Journal of Political Economy by Felix Oberholzer-Gee and Koleman Strumpf has found that illegal music downloads have had no noticeable effects on the sale of music, contrary to the claims of the recording industry.”

The study compared the logs of two OpenNAP P2P servers with sales data from Nielsen SoundScan, tracking the effects of 1.75 million songs downloads on 680 different albums sold during that same period. The study then took a surprising twist.

“Using detailed records of transfers of digital music files, we find that file sharing has had no statistically significant effect on purchases of the average album in our sample,” the study reports. “Even our most negative point estimate implies that a one-standard-deviation increase in file sharing reduces an album’s weekly sales by a mere 368 copies, an effect that is too small to be statistically distinguishable from zero.”

The study reports that 803 million CDs were sold in 2002, which was a decrease of about 80 million from the previous year. The RIAA has blamed the majority of the decrease on piracy, and has maintained that argument in recent years as music sales have faltered. Yet according to the study, the impact from file sharing could not have been more than 6 million albums total in 2002, leaving 74 million unsold CDs without an excuse for sitting on shelves.