Douglas Merrill, previously head of digital at EMI and chief information officer at Google, claims that people who used Limewire to pirate music were actually iTunes' biggest spenders.
He told delegates at CA Expo in Sydney that he examined Limewire users' behaviour and profiled it against the top iTunes sales, concluding that the "thieves" downloading the most music on the peer-to-peer sharing site were the people spending the most money on iTunes.
"The RIAA [Recording Industry Association of America] said it isn't that we are making bad music, but the 'dirty file sharing guys' are the problem," he said, referring to the music industry's struggles in the digital age.
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Face full of dirt
"Going to sue customers for file sharing is like trying to sell soap by throwing dirt on your customers.
"That's not theft, that's try-before-you-buy marketing and we weren't even paying for it… so it makes sense to sue them," he joked.
Merrill's somewhat anecdotal evidence joins a growing number of reports that a vast number of people pirating music and movies are actually just taking them for a test drive before purchasing them legally.
Limewire was closed down last year before a judge ruled that the company and its founder must pay $105 million in damages because music was being illegally distributed via the site.