US study says customers prefer a legal download – sometimes…

February 2012

All areas


A US study has found that people are happy to pay for online content, provided that it is offered at a fair price and the service is convenient, and in general terms would rather not infringe copyright law. The research, based on a study of 2,303 people by US think-tank American Assembly, shows that illegal file sharing among family and friends is relatively common – but that people would prefer to use a legal alternative if one was available at the right price and usage point. So far the data suggests that streaming music services are getting this right, but users are still unwilling to accept the current range of video streaming offerings at the current price and convenience points. The survey found that 46% people surveyed had engaged in piracy, with this rising to above 70% for people aged 19 to 27. Over two thirds of those questioned would share music within family or friends, and over half would share video content in the same group. But when it comes to uploading material, however, support drops off radically with less than 4% saying they would upload with 0% of the over 65s saying they would or had.

Over half of the under-29s surveyed were happy to use legal music streaming services but barely a third felt the same for video streaming.  Interestingly legal film streaming was much more welcomed by the older generation, who were historically more accustomed to paying for movies and found the sum of $15.99 a good price for a film. With gaming, rates of piracy were far lower than for other content areas, primarily the survey says because of the technical know-how needed to modify consoles to play pirated games and less than 3% of those surveyed said they could play pirated games.

When it came to the penalties for piracy, the American public is clearly out of step with US legislation, US politicians and the statutory penalties awarded by US courts. Three quarters of those surveyed felt that fines of less than $100 per song were acceptable and only 16% felt that cutting off internet access was justified to stop piracy. Only a quarter who approved of disconnection – so just 4% – felt that more than a one month ban was warranted which must be a blow to the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act legislation currently being debated in the USA.

The research was sponsored by the American Assembly at Columbia University and supported by a research grant from Google and forms part of the Copy Culture in the US and Germany study. Further data is due shortly. More at and


ARTICLE LINK: And for more on what the US public do and do  not know about the US copyright system, have a look at ‘The Insanity of Copyright Law – even professionals have no idea they are breaking the law” on Techdirt –  the comments make for an interesting read and give a surprisingly wide range of views:

ARTICLE LINK: and for a fascinating debate on this whole area and more about the ‘rationale’ of copyright in the digital age please do read Wired’s joint interview with IP lawyer Laurence (Laurie) Kaye and Laurence (Loz) Kaye, leader of the UK’s Pirate Party. Laurence Kaye vs Laurence Kaye: The pirate and the lawyer in conversation

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