The survey by the Institute for Prospective Technological Studies examined the online habits of 16,000 Europeans, the BBC reported Wednesday.
"It seems that the majority of the music that is consumed illegally by the individuals in our sample would not have been purchased if illegal downloading websites were not available to them," the researchers wrote in their report, Digital Music Consumption on the Internet: Evidence from Clickstream Data.
"Although there is trespassing of private property rights (copyrights), there is unlikely to be much harm done on digital music revenues," they wrote.
Music industry organizations criticized the report, with the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry calling it "flawed and misleading."
"The findings seem disconnected from commercial reality," the IFPI said in a statement.
"If a large proportion of illegal downloaders do not buy any music (and yet consume, in some cases, large amounts of it,) it cannot be logical that illegal behavior stimulates legal download sales and inflicts no harm," the statement said.
The researchers said they analyzed data on Internet activity during the course of one year for for the report, published by the European Commission Joint Research Committee.