Study: Most users say music downloads not stealing

More than half of US Internet users say that downloading music is not stealing, according to survey results released this week.

          More than half of US Internet users say that downloading music is not stealing, according to survey results released Thursday by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

          Of the US Internet users participating in the survey, 53% said they do not regard downloading as stealing compared to 31% who do regard it as stealing, the Washington-based research organization said in a statement summarizing the survey results.

          According to the study, 22% of U.S. Internet users said they have downloaded music. Among this group, there is less respect for copyright than in the wider Internet population -- 78% say that what they are doing is not stealing, according to the study. Furthermore, among this group, 61% said they do not care if the music they capture online is copyrighted, and just 31% said it is a concern for them.

          While music downloaders are the most likely to be indifferent to copyright laws, the recording industry has not convinced the wider U.S. Internet audience nor the general population of the virtues of its arguments, the survey results showed.

          Of all U.S. citizens, 40% said that people who download music off the Internet are not doing anything wrong, as compared to 35% saying downloaders are stealing, while 25% did not take a position at all on the issue, according to the survey.

          The survey suggests that the percentage of Internet users who believe downloading music is not a crime could grow over time. Young US citizens who are not currently online are the most likely to say they want to get Internet access and are also the most likely to say that downloading music is not stealing.

          Some 65% of those under age 30 who do not have Internet access now said they want to get it. Of this group, 52% said downloading music is not a crime, compared to 22% of over-30 non-Internet users who said that.

          In the general population, young, affluent and highly educated people are the most likely to agree that those who download free music online are not doing anything wrong, according to the survey.

          The survey estimated that 47% of those in the general public whose household income exceeds $US75,000 per year do not view downloading music as stealing, compared to 37% of people in households making less than $30,000. And 45% of college graduates are in the pro-downloading camp, compared to 25% of citizens who have not completed high school.

          The issue of downloading copyrighted music comes to a head next week, when Napster Inc., developer of a music-trading program, appeals in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco against an injunction sought by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). [See "Napster Sends Written Reply to Appeals Court," Sept. 13.]

          The RIAA injunction, if enforced, would effectively close down Napster's file sharing service which enables users to swap music files.

          Pew, in Washington D.C., can be contacted at +1-202-296-0019 or via the Web at http://www.pewinternet.org/.

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