Music Downloads Not Theft, Americans Say

A new study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project shows that most Americans do not believe that downloading music from the Internet is stealing, even if the music is copyrighted.

“The Online Music Report” also reveals that users rarely buy the songs that they download, further raising the ire of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

“One of the problems with the Net is that it provides opportunities and anonymity,” Frank Creighton, RIAA senior vice president and director of anti-piracy, told the E-Commerce Times. He added that many people believe downloading copyrighted music from the Internet is safe because they believe their chances of getting caught are slim.

No Problem

The RIAA and most musicians argue that companies like Napster — whose music-swapping software has set off a fierce legal battle — are building their businesses on the backs of artists.

“Just like a carpenter who crafts a table gets to decide whether to keep it, sell it or give it away, shouldn’t we have the same option?” the report quotes Lars Ulrich, of the hard rock band Metallica, as saying.

Majority Rules?

Fifty-three percent of all American Internet users — and 78 percent of those who have downloaded music files — do not believe that downloading and sharing music files for free is stealing, the report said. About 22 percent of all Net users have downloaded music files.

The report also found that 61 percent of music downloaders in the U.S. do not care if the music they are downloading is copyrighted.

Even among the general American population, 40 percent of those surveyed do not think that people who download music off the Internet are involved in any wrongdoing. Only 35 percent said the downloaders are stealing, and 25 percent chose not to take a position.

No Sale

The report also found that 79 percent of music downloaders do not pay for their digital downloads and that only 21 percent end up buying the music they download in CD format “most of the time.”

Twenty-six percent of the downloaders have never bought a CD or cassette of the music they download, and the remainder have either purchased the music “some of the time” or “only a few times.”

Although digital downloaders do not always buy the songs they download, there are signs that they could be spending more money on music than those who do not share digital music files. A report released earlier this year by Jupiter Communications revealed that Napster users are 45 percent more likely to have increased their music spending than non-users.

Limited Stockpiling

Most music downloaders are not using their downloads to build massive collections of music. The study found that only 10 percent of downloaders have more than 100 songs stored on their hard drives and that 63 percent have fewer than 25 songs stored.

Although Napster has promoted itself as a way for new bands to be heard, only 31 percent of music file-sharers surveyed had downloaded files to listen to new artists for the first time.

Eighty-six percent of downloaders use file-sharing as a way to obtain a copy of a song that they have heard before, and 69 percent download new songs from artists with which they are familiar.


  • I don’t understand… If a Public Library can share any book to anyone with a name and a phone number, why can’t people share music? What’s the difference?

  • No one ever tried to make it illegal to record music off of the radio onto cassettes. Sometimes a person could even get lucky enough to record the entire album if the station played it. You can still do it that way if you want to. Are some artists going to try and have receivers with cassette recorders outlawed also?

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