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Internet users appear to be snubbing the RIAA as they continue to download music files with no regard for copyright, according to a US-based study by Pew.

Despite aggressive challenges by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) to on-line music suppliers like the defunct Napster, two-thirds of Internet users in the US who copy digital music on-line say they don't care if the music is copyrighted, according to the report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

The report, entitled "Music Downloading, File-sharing and Copyright," also found that 27 percent of users who download music files are concerned about copyright, while 6 percent said they don't know enough or don't have a position on the issue.

The number of users who share files on-line and disregard the copyright issue is close to that of those who copy music, at 65 percent. Similarly, 30 percent of file-sharers do care about copyright according to the report, and 5 percent said they don't care.

Indeed, the fall of centralised free music site Napster, after the RIAA won its case, was far from the end of the on-line music free-for-all; after it shut, a host of decentralised file-sharing services emerged and Internet users switched to the new systems. The recording industry sets its loss in CD sales since 1999 from on-line piracy at 25 percent.

Even though the proportion of Internet users downloading music files to their computers is unchanged between May 2003 and April 2001, at 29 percent, Pew points out that one must bear in mind the increase in the number of music downloaders in that time. In April 2001, Pew reported a downloading population of 30 million American adults, while this recent report sets it at 35 million.

More bad news came for the RIAA earlier this year when it lost a landmark case against the Morpheus and Grokster peer-to-peer software providers when a judge ruled that the software is legal even if what it is being used for, distributing copyrighted film and music, was illegal.

RIAA did win its case against Verizon in January, however, which was forced to give the RIAA names of subscribers who were suspected of copyright infringement. Verizon later appealed the ruling.

As of July 28, according to Pew's report, the RIAA had issued close to 1,000 subpoenas requesting information from ISPs to identify and contact people potentially guilty of copyright infringement.

Pew's report is based on daily tracking of Internet usage in America. The results came from telephone surveys conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates among a sample of 2,515 adults over 18.

© ENN

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