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Study finds piracy withering against legal alternatives

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A study has found that people are perfectly prepared to pay for online content, provided that the alternatives aren’t too harsh.

The data, from respected think-tank American Assembly, shows that illegal file sharing among family and friends is relatively common – but that people would prefer to use a legal alternative if one was available at the right price and usage point. So far the data suggests that streaming music services are getting this right, but users are still unwilling to accept the current range of video streaming offerings at the current price and convenience points.

“There is ethics at work in these decisions,” Joe Karaganis, vice president of the American Assembly told The Register. “However, it’s overridden by price and convenience. All other things being equal, people prefer to obey the law.”

The survey found that 46 per cent of the over 2,000 people surveyed had engaged in piracy, with this rising to seven of ten among people aged 19 to 27. Over two thirds of those questioned would share music within family or friends, and over half would share video content in the same group. But when it comes to uploading material, however, support drops off radically.

No more than four per cent of the age groups surveyed would countenance uploading, and that dropped to zero for those over 65. Barely ten per cent said that the majority of their media collection came from pirated material. While all survey data is subject to legal bias, this does suggest that people like being on the right side of the law.

When it comes to music streaming, over half of the under-29s surveyed were happy to use legal means to get their beats per minute fix, but barely a third felt the same for video. Legal film streaming was much more welcomed by the older generation, who were raised on thinking $15.99 is a good price for a film.

When it comes to games piracy the situation is much starker. Modifying a game console to play pirated games is hard, and less than three per cent of those surveyed said they had a console with the capability. Of those, 55 per cent had bought them premodded, suggesting a very limited market for such systems.

When it comes to the penalties for piracy the American public is a lot more forgiving than the courts. Three quarters of those surveyed felt that fines of less than $100 per song were acceptable and only 16 per cent felt that cutting off internet access was justified to stop piracy. Only a quarter who approved of disconnection felt that more than a one month ban was warranted.

All in all the survey data makes depressing reading for those looking to push SOPA legislation through Congress. While the public maintain a nuanced view of piracy, it seems legislators - using media company legal suggestions - are not. ®

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