Americans Think Downloading Music is OK


While the big news on the music front last week was the Gabriel/Eno announcement, their celebrity may have overshadowed two other important news items. Coincidentally, these diametrically opposed viewpoints came public within a day of each other. One of them is a bit of a surprise, while the other has the smell of an old spin piece.

When looked at side by side, its apparent that only one of them can be right; You guess which one it is:

Beyond the Anti-Piracy Suits: Year-end news stories reported not only overall decreases in the unauthorized downloading of copyrighted music, attributed to lawsuits filed against individuals by the Recording Industry Association of America, but an uptick in music sales. And more lawsuits were filed by RIAA last week. However, this seemingly straightforward story is about more than merely suing people to encourage music buying. There’s a carrot here, too — not just a stick.

Compare that statement with this one:

Americans Think Downloading Music for Personal Use Is an Innocent Act: While the news media have been filled with stories about what some are calling “Internet music piracy,” a large majority of the American public views downloading music for personal use as an innocent act, and thinks the high price of CDs leads to a lot of downloading.

Fully three in four adult Americans (75%) agree that “downloading and then selling the music is piracy and should be prohibited, downloading for personal use is an innocent act and should not be prohibited.”

An almost equal 70% say, “If the price of CDs was a lot lower, there would be a lot less downloading of music off the Internet.”

I’ll end your suspense: The first excerpt was from Hilary Rosen, former chairman and CEO of the RIAA. The second clip was a 1/28/04 Harris Poll.

Break this down: It’s apparent that despite the best efforts of the RIAA, most of the country continues to perceive file sharing as OK. In light of the massive publicity that the RIAA has generated via their very high profile lawsuits, this is really quite astounding. Downloading may very well be the single biggest current act of civil disobedience in the United States — bigger than driving faster than 55mph, and certainly bigger than pot smoking.

Here’s another surprise: Despite several years of “education” by the RIAA, most Americans do not completely grasp the nuances involved:

The potential financial impact of downloading on musicians and recording companies may not be fully understood by the American public. Nearly two of three adult Americans (64%) agree that musicians and recording companies should get the full financial benefit of their work. While the music industry views downloading as an issue of property rights, agreement with the three statements reported on to this point is at virtually identical levels among Republicans and Democrats, and liberals and conservatives.

While only a small majority of adults (54%) agree, “downloading music off the Internet is no different from buying a used CD or recording music borrowed from a friend,” the differences by age are large. Younger people are much more likely to agree with this statement – 70% of 18 to 24 year olds and 66% of 25 to 29 year olds agree; and there is a decline with age – only 36% of people 65 and older agree with the statement.

ReThink Research noted that “this suggests the music industry is fighting an uphill battle in winning the hearts and minds of Americans to support prohibitions against downloading.” Somehow, the RIAA have failed to convince the public that there is a link between downloading and its financial impact on the recording industry.”

Who’d a thunk it: Suing your clients and calling them thieves is not a great business strategy . . .

US public still believe downloading is harmless and should be legal
ReThink Faultline
Feb 2, 2004

Beyond the Anti-Piracy Suits
WSJ, January 27, 2004,,SB107517375356212562,00.html

Harris Interactive Survey
The Harris Poll® #5: Americans Think Downloading Music for Personal Use Is an Innocent Act
by Robert Leitman, January 28, 2004

Americans Think Downloading Music for Personal Use Is an Innocent Act
Press Release, January 28, 2004

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