A nationwide survey by the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) finds that a majority of Americans agree that copying or sharing media is stealing, and that it should be restricted. Most Americans see little difference between making illegal copies of music files, photocopying books, or sharing copyrighted computer software. Still, just 36 percent of Americans believe it’s a good idea for schools and Internet providers to shut down file-sharing networks, or want to see computer users held responsible if they download copyrighted material.
There also appears to be a generational “digital divide.” Young Americans are less certain than those over the age of 35 that copying and sharing copyrighted materials such as books, music, or software is a bad thing. They are more familiar than their parents or grandparents are with the Internet, and are more likely to have downloaded MP3s and computer software, and to have used peer-to-peer file sharing networks, such as KaZaA, Morpheus, or Grokster to do it.
Just one in ten (10 percent) Americans has used a peer-to-peer file-sharing network, such as KaZaA, Morpheus, or Grokster. Among Americans under the age of 35, use of these peer-to-peer networks is far more common, with 25 percent saying they have used them before, and 8 percent saying they have used one in the last two weeks. Among Americans over 35 years of age, KaZaA and file-sharing networks like it are virtually unknown, with just 8 percent of those 35 to 44, 4percent of those 45 to 64, and 3 percent of seniors ever having used one.
Two-thirds of peer-to-peer network users (67 percent) and a majority of younger Americans (58 percent) say that these file-sharing networks are a good way to exchange new computing tools, and should not be restricted. But majorities of users (53 percent) and Americans under 35 years of age (55 percent) also agree that downloading, copying and sharing computer software is stealing and should be restricted.
Just 39 percent of Americans think it is a good or excellent idea for schools and Internet providers to shut down file-sharing networks and restrict users’ access to copied files of copyrighted material. A majority, 51 percent, say this is only a fair or a poor idea. Younger Americans are more strongly opposed to this idea than are their parents and grandparents. Fully 61 percent of those under the age of 35 say this is only a fair or a poor idea, compared to 33 percent of seniors who think so.
Fully seven out of ten (70 percent) Americans say they have used the Internet, and 44% say they use it frequently. Among those under the age of 35, just 18 percent say they have never been online. Among seniors 65 years of age and over 55 percent say they have never used the Internet.
One in three (34 percent ) of Americans under the age of 34 have downloaded music or an MP3 from the Internet. This percentage drops dramatically with age, as just 17 percent of 35 to 44 year olds, 7 percent of 45 to 64 year olds, and 4 percent of seniors having downloaded music from the Internet. Among those who have downloaded music files, two-thirds (65 percent) agree that it is a good way to get music for free and should not be restricted. At the same time, 52 percent of those who have downloaded music files agree that it is stealing, and that because it takes money from artists it should be restricted. Of those who nave not downloaded MP3s or other music files, 62 percent agree that downloading, copying and sharing music files should be restricted.
Americans are not eager to offer up their personal information in exchange for free access to computer software and music files. Just 18 percent of all adults think such an offer is a good idea. Internet users who have downloaded software or MP3s, or who have used peer-to-peer networks, are slightly more receptive than those who are less experienced on the net, but only about one in four of these experienced users think it is a good or excellent idea.
Women (67 percent) are only slightly less likely than men (73 percent) to have gone online to use the Internet. Nearly half of men (48 percent) say they go online frequently, compared to 40 percent of women. Men are more likely than are women to have downloaded software from the Internet (33 percent to 24 percent), to have shopped online (46 percent to 39 percent), to have used a peer-to-peer file-sharing network (12 percent to 8 percent), to have bid in an online auction (23 percent to 17 percent), and to have downloaded music (18 percent to 14 percent).
Men are also more likely than are women to agree that downloading, copying and sharing music files and computer software is stealing and should be restricted , and to agree that schools and Internet providers should shut down file-sharing networks and restrict users’ access to copied files of copyrighted material.
The poll* was conducted among 600 adults nationwide selected randomly from a list of residential phone numbers. The interviews were conducted by telephone from June 8-15, 2003. Quotas were established by region based on census population figures. The margin of error for this survey is ± 4.0 percent on the overall sample. The margin of error on subsamples is greater.