Study: A ‘Substantial Majority’ of Americans Have No Problem With File-Swapping…

Is this where the battle for the hearts-and-minds of music fans ends up? According to just-published research by Columbia University public policy group American Assembly, a vast majority of Americans have little or no problem with casual piracy, though very few are engaged in heavy volumes of theft.  “‘Piracy’ is common,” the report flatly concluded.  “Copyright infringement among family and friends is widely accepted.”

“Substantial majorities of Americans say it is ‘reasonable’ to share music files with family members (75%) and friends (56%).”

As you’d expect, this correlates with usage.  The group found that more than 70 percent of 18-49ers have illegally acquired content, a number that moves to 46 percent for the broader population.

  • Save

This bleeds into the enforcement question as well.  Of a slim majority (51 percent) that actually supported any type of penalty, most supported wrist-slapping fines.

  • Save

And what’s wrong with these attitudes?  The answer might be nothing at all.  The reason is that pirates are frequently purchasers, often more so than their non-infringing peers.  Accordingly, the group found that P2P users are 30 percent more likely to purchase a download.  And, a substantial number of streamers are file-swapping less frequently.

And, despite piracy being widespread, the number of high-volume, large-scale downloaders is actually quite small, according to the data.  In fact, just 2 percent of Americans are ‘heavy music pirates,’ defined as those with personal collections surpassing 1,000 stolen songs.  On the film side, that number is 1 percent, with 100 films or TV shows the benchmark.

Perhaps if fifteen years of digital disruption has taught us anything, it’s this: nothing is black-and-white when it comes to music acquisition.  Thieves purchase, streamers download, and superfans are sometimes the biggest file-swappers on the planet.  Here’s more data to prove it.