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Only a narrow majority support piracy punishments, while nearly half of people pirate

The latest edition of Columbia University's American Assembly's "Copy Culture" study on piracy and American society has been published and familiar themes appear yet again.  The study examines copyright infringement and public sentiments regarding punishment in the United States and Germany

In the study authored by American Assembly VP Joe Karaganis and Dutch freelancer/Ph.D researcher Lennart Renkema, it is revealed that 45 percent of U.S. citizens and 46 percent of German citizens actively pirate media.  Those rates jump to nearly 70 percent when looking at younger demographics.

When it comes to peer-to-peer (P2P) pirates, the authors note an interesting correlation with legal purchases.  They write:

They buy as many legal DVDs, CDs, and subscription media services as their non-file-sharing, Internet-using counterparts. In the US, they buy roughly 30% more digital music. They also display marginally higher willingness to pay.

The authors note that most pirates illegally download casually.  They write:

In both countries only 14% of adults have acquired most or all of a digital music or video collection this way. Only 2%–3% got most or all of a large collection this way (>1000 songs or >100 movies / TV shows).

The study also found that while only a smaller percentage (around 22 percent in the U.S. among those under 30) copy privately from friends, the practice is more common in Germany.  However, the study points out that most people in the U.S. believe private copying is legal, when in fact it carries severe criminal penalties under current, mostly unenforced, laws.

Piracy percentages
Piracy tends to be remote and pervasive, but mostly casual.

Germans tend to be more supportive of punishments for pirates; 59 percent of Germans back punishments, while only 52 percent of Americans back punishments for filesharers.  In America only 37 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds support such penalties, while in Germany 56 percent of the younger demographic supports the penalties.

Only around 20 percent of people in the U.S. and Germany support stricter penalties, though, such as disconnecting pirates from the internet.  Most are fine with content providers policing posted content and removing infringing links or sending warnings to pirates.  But when it comes to stricter punishments or the premise of the government stepping in, support sharply drops off.

Perhaps the most interesting conclusion of the study is just how much support there is in both countries for the idea of offering an unlimited pass to media content for a monthly fee.  According to the report:

Sixty-one percent of Germans would pay a small broadband fee to compensate creators in return for legalized file sharing.

Forty-eight percent of Americans would do so—a surprisingly high number given the relative invisibility of such proposals in US debates.

The median willingness to pay was $18.79 per month in the US and €16.43 in Germany.

The study found that Germans were only about half as likely pay for TV or own a smartphone (e.g. 35 percent of Americans own smartphones vs. 18 percent for Germans).  A broad range of age groups in both countries own DVDs and CDs, but when it comes to digital media, younger age groups substantially outnumber older ones in ownership.

Americans tend to have larger music and DVD collections.
Music and DVD collection sizes
The study was conducted via telephone interview of 2,303 U.S. adults and 1,000 German adults.  All those surveyed were over 18.  The study authors make it clear that they were careful in how they worded questions to prevent respondents from feeling pressured to lie about their own piracy habits, a complaint the authors make about other studies.

Source: American Assembly [PDF]

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worth and punishment
By daboom06 on 1/21/2013 6:58:33 PM , Rating: -1
the answer to stealing digital content is to either stop people from wanting to steal it, or remove anonymity on the internet.

without either action, people will always find a way to work around whatever feeble attempts at regulation a government imposes. but perhaps a combination of making the content difficult enough to steal or easy/cheap enough to purchase could reduce the problem to only 5% of the population. and maybe that's good enough.

RE: worth and punishment
By rpsgc on 1/21/2013 7:12:17 PM , Rating: 2
And the follow-up to that is educating people on the difference between "stealing" and "copyright infringement".

RE: worth and punishment
By tayb on 1/21/2013 7:25:03 PM , Rating: 3
And after that we'll discuss why treating "piracy" as theft would actually benefit downloaders and make it impossible for the MPAA/RIAA to continue their anti-piracy legal crusades.

RE: worth and punishment
By arazok on 1/21/2013 8:59:46 PM , Rating: 2
No, the answer is to accept reality and view digital content as free. It has zero value, and should be legally shared, copied, or distributed, for free.

The content producers can make their money by making it easy to obtain that content in an easy way. iTunes, Netflix, etc are providing free content in a simple way that people will pay for. That’s where the value is, and is what people pay for. Personally, I rip lots of media via torrents, but I still have Netflix and iTunes because for some things, they are just easier to deal with. I don’t see why everyone can’t be happy with that arrangement.

Content providers should also be free to implement DRM or any other technologies they want to use, but the market should determine which of those technologies succeed or fail. The government and the courts have no place in creating or enforcing any laws around digital files because it simply isn’t needed, and is unenforceable anyways. If you can't produce a product that sells how you want it to, change the product or adapt to how it sells. It's as simple as that.

RE: worth and punishment
By tayb on 1/21/2013 9:34:50 PM , Rating: 5
What a crock. If digital content has zero value why do you bother downloading it?

RE: worth and punishment
By TSS on 1/22/2013 11:45:18 AM , Rating: 4
That's about the only part of his post that makes sense though. It can be replicated infinitly, without loss of quality. Anything digital is no longer scarce, and thus no longer has any value.

Gold wouldn't have any value either if we could make more by running it through a computer and hitting ctrl+c, ctrl+v.

Now you could use labor as a definition of value and it definitly would count for the first copy, AKA the masterfile of a movie with a budget of $100 million is worth $100 million. But pressing ctrl+c, ctrl+v doesn't cost any labor at all, infact you can have a script make copies automatically. So by that definition as well, none of the copies have value and the copies are exactly the same as the original, thus that has no value as well.

So you're left with emotional value for digital media. But even there, the content doesn't have value. First off it's highly subjective, what you like might not be what i like and thus it might not have any value to me, or even less then nothing as i might feel the effort might've been wasted on a paticular piece of content.

But even if you like a piece of digital content, how you procure it doesn't change anything about your emotional state while consuming it. Meaning if Gone with the wind means alot to you, wether you watch a legal or illigal version (which you couldn't tell apart if somebody didn't tell you anyway) has no impact on the actual value of the content.

Thus the only conclusion you can make is that it doesn't have value. The fact that we're willing to spend $200 million making a movie which in the end has no actual value, is insane, but no less true.

So in the end people will have to gate content in order to make money off it, in areas where that's impossible like movies we'll simply have to settle for less. Meaning movie budgets of $50 million instead of upwards of $100 million for example. But in areas like games where you can lock off acces to multiplayer via a account based gateway, money can still be made, which companies have realised thus the rise of the free to play model. Singleplayer games are still screwed though.... i haven't seen any big single player productions without atleast co-op in a couple of years, atleast not at the rate they used to be released.

I agree with the OP, the keyword there is Service. People will pay for service, rather then the actual content.

The rest of his post doesn't make sense though. You can't argue digital content should be free, then argue DRM should be allowed. Free also means free of rights.

RE: worth and punishment
By arazok on 1/22/2013 2:43:48 PM , Rating: 3
You don’t understand. The file, and the contents within them are worthless. I understand how people have a hard time seeing it that way – I’m downloading it for a reason – but the reality is that once created, the cost to increase supply (infinitely) is zero. To deny this is to deny how the market works, and the fundamental idea behind free markets is that the market self regulates. It is doing this now – despite piracy, content producers, distributors, are seeing massive growth in digital sales. The market has found a way to be profitable by offering services like iTunes which serve no purpose but to make it easy to obtain music. People don’t pay for things they can get for free, but they do pay for convenience.

Simple supply and demand dictate that the value of something in infinite supply is likely to be zero. If I invented a replicator from star-trek tomorrow, the value of everything in the world would instantly plummet to nothing as we would have in infinite supply of everything (except energy to power it). I can replicate digital content. By it’s very nature, the moment it was created, it’s value drops to zero.

Laugh all you want, but we should treat digital content the same way we treat fruits and vegetables. Farmers make money growing tomatoes (creating content), which we can all go and purchase from the store (iTunes), or grow ourselves (copy/pirate). Why do most of us pay for something we can get for free? We do it because the convenience of purchasing it is worth saving the effort of obtaining it for free. Pirating is a pain in the ass for most people – as is growing a tomato. People pay for the convenience, not the product.

The government doesn’t allow farmers to copyright tomato’s and punish those caught growing them. They don’t need to. The market has found a solution that works for everyone. We should allow the same for digital media.

RE: worth and punishment
By tayb on 1/22/2013 5:11:15 PM , Rating: 2
No, you don't understand. What you're doing is ignoring most of the definition of the word value and focusing on the monetary aspect only. I value my wife. That does not mean I am pricing my wife no matter how amusing that may be. Value, by definition, also includes the regard you hold for something.

Value creates demand. You value music so you download music. You like listening to it. You like singing or dancing to it. You value these things and if you didn't you wouldn't be downloading. You don't value the artist so you don't compensate the artist. You've acquired value but you've paid nothing to acquire it.

You're other examples are ridiculous. Farmers don't create fruits and vegetables... those things naturally occur on this planet. Without artists music would not continue creating itself. Without farmers apples would continue to grow just fine.

RE: worth and punishment
By arazok on 1/23/2013 9:54:41 AM , Rating: 2
And without record companies, music would still be created. It just wouldn’t be distributed as effectively.

Perhaps my analogy is not perfect, but it gets the point I’m trying to make across. The nature of digital content makes it inherently worthless. It’s the distribution of it that has always made money. You are not required to charge your friends to come over and listen to a song. You can play it as many times as you like for no additional charge. The music is free, the medium is not.

Anyways, I’m just trying to present a different way of looking at it. Music, the internet, and everything around it is entirely a human construct. We can choose to look at “what” it is in anyways we choose. I’m just trying to present a view that I think is fair to everybody. The record companies would still make LOTS of money by focusing on distribution and services, we wouldn’t need lawyers or police to enforce any laws, and individuals would be free to access it in any way they choose. The hard way for free, or the easy way for a fee. This is exactly the setup the market is trying to create, and the only thing holding it back is companies with dated business models and the politicians they have in their pockets.

"Paying an extra $500 for a computer in this environment -- same piece of hardware -- paying $500 more to get a logo on it? I think that's a more challenging proposition for the average person than it used to be." -- Steve Ballmer

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