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Only uneducated Yanks respect copyrights – study

Confirmed: US education corrupts morals

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Internet Security Threat Report 2014

As we've always suspected, the less time you spend in American schools, the more likely you are to hold on to some semblance of the civic morality which Nanny struggled to beat into your thick skull during your blissful years in the nursery.

Thus it comes as no surprise that forty-five per cent of US college graduates should believe that downloading copyrighted material without paying for it is not really stealing, whereas only twenty-five per cent of Americans who have not completed high school would agree, according to a new study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

Money seems to play a part too, and, as we might predict from common-sense observation, the richer you are the less likely you are to quibble over obscure moral niceties like respect for someone else's intellectual property. (That's how you got rich in the first place.) Fully forty-seven per cent of those in the general US population whose household income exceeds $75,000 per year say that downloading music is not stealing, compared to thirty-seven per cent of people in households making less than $30,000, the study finds.

However, copyright scofflaws are not quite so abusive as the neurotic, copyright-obsessed Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) would have us believe. Less than one third of music downloaders have collected more than twenty-five songs on their computers, suggesting that the vast majority are merely setting up a short play list of favourites which they can listen to whilst in the act of computing.

Sixty-three per cent of music downloaders say they've collected twenty-five or fewer songs on their computers; nineteen per cent say they have between twenty-six and one hundred; and a mere ten per cent say they have more than one hundred songs, according to the survey.

But Napster users stand out dramatically in the group of heavy download addicts, with an average of 140 songs per user library. "Our data shows approximately 11 million Napster users, and combined with our observations of songs per user, we estimate that there could be about 1.5 billion songs in circulation on [their] computers," the report says.

Napster users, we reckon, must be both rich and well educated.

People seem to be latching on to the idea that if they own a piece of music in one format, they have a right to duplicate it in another. Thus the researchers noticed an increase in such claims, since a previous report found few respondents claiming to download music they own in another format.

Since the issue has been popularised, "more respondents may be giving what they perceive to be a legally safer answer to a question about the type of songs they download," the survey wisely notes. ®

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The full report is posted here.

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