Nearly Half of Americans Pirate Casually, But Pirates Purchase More Legal Content
January 21, 2013 5:52 PM
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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
appear yet again. The study examines
and public sentiments regarding punishment in the United States and Germany
In the study authored by American Assembly VP
and Dutch freelancer/Ph.D researcher
, 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 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.
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.
American Assembly [PDF]
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RE: worth and punishment
1/22/2013 2:43:48 PM
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
1/22/2013 5:11:15 PM
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
1/23/2013 9:54:41 AM
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.
“Then they pop up and say ‘Hello, surprise! Give us your money or we will shut you down!' Screw them. Seriously, screw them. You can quote me on that.” -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng referencing patent trolls
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