Survey rubbishes piracy myth

Big Content’s idea that pirates are its enemy took another drubbing after a survey revealed that file-sharers are the music and film industry’s best customers.

According to Ars Technica, the American Assembly from Columbia University commissioned a public opinion survey to find out how consumers were getting their media and what their attitudes were toward copyright enforcement.

As you might expect, all those surveyed hated the use of internet disconnection and rate-limiting as penalties for unauthorised file sharing.

What the survey confirmed was that peer-to-peer file sharing software users buy 30 percent more legitimate contact than those who do not.

More than 80 percent believe that it’s OK to share copyrighted content with family members, and six in 10 extend the same logic to friends. Only four to 15 percent think that it’s reasonable to upload copyrighted content for public consumption, post links to pirated content on Facebook, or sell unauthorised copies of copyrighted materials.

Younger people are happier at sharing than older people, with 76 percent of Americans under 30 saying it’s reasonable to share content with friends, while only 51 percent of those over 65 think so.

The figures show that while only 13 percent of American internet users use peer-to-peer file-sharing software overall, 20 percent of adults under 30 do so.

The survey was commissioned by Google, which might not like some of the findings. About 53 percent of Americans believe that search engines should “be required to block links to pirated music and videos online”. Only 42 percent disagreed.

What the survey mostly does is offer some support for the idea that file sharing promotes, rather than hinders, legitimate music purchases.

The average American on a peer-to-peer network has a music library of almost 2,000 songs. Of these, 760 were legitimately purchased. Those who say they are not P2P users have an average library size of 1300 songs. Of those, 582 were legit.

It also shows that music that is ripped from CDs or copied from friends and family makes up the rest.

A larger fraction of the music collections of non-P2P users come from legitimate sources.

The survey was also attempted in Germany, and the results were similar. The only difference was that more Germans believed it was OK for Big Content to enforce copyright.

More than 59 percent of Germans believe that unauthorised downloading of a song or movie should be punishable, while just 52 percent of Americans agree. But the Germans were much tougher on Big Content spying on them to prevent copyright theft. More than 71 percent opposed internet monitoring to prevent infringement, two points higher than Americans.

In other words, it is OK to chuck the book at P2P pirates just so long as you don’t spy on them to get a conviction.