New Study: 70% Of People Find 'Piracy' Socially Acceptable [Updated]

from the you-can't-combat-that dept

I've pointed out time and time again that I don't, in any way, condone unauthorized file sharing. I don't participate in it, and I don't think people should do so, though I certainly understand why many do. Instead, I talk about recognizing two things. First, such unauthorized downloading is here and it's happening and there's little likelihood that it's going away, so your best bet is to figure out how to deal with it, rather than just bitch about it. Second, once you come to realize that, you can often come up with much smarter, better, more effective and more profitable ways to make money by embracing what your fans want. And, yet, I'm still told that I'm "the world's biggest piracy defender" who "only wants to rip off musicians." And, recently, I was told that it was particularly pernicious of me to suggest that content creators recognize that piracy isn't going away.

However, it looks like even more data is supporting that position. TorrentFreak points us to a new study coming out of Denmark -- where the entertainment industry has been extra aggressive in trying to "crack down" on unauthorized file sharing and to "educate" the public on why such activities are wrong. And, yet, the study shows that 70% of people still find unauthorized downloading to be socially acceptable in some form or another. 15 to 20% say that it's totally acceptable, with the rest saying that it's acceptable within certain boundaries. Where people begin to think it's not acceptable is when it involves downloading the works of others and then selling them. This isn't all that surprising, and fits with what we've seen elsewhere, but it's still interesting to see the numbers.

What's also interesting is that these numbers are almost identical to what a similar study found over a decade ago. In other words, despite tons of money, lawsuits, lobbying, education campaigns, advertising, threats, news reports and the like -- all telling people that unauthorized downloading was unquestionably morally wrong -- it's had almost no impact on people's attitude towards the practice, and the vast majority find it socially acceptable. That certainly suggests that my position has a pretty strong basis in fact. Historically, it's very, very difficult to convince people that something they feel is socially acceptable is morally evil. And that's likely to be true in this arena as well. So why does the industry keep insisting that they can change that basic fact?

Update: Good discussion in the comments digging into the details of the study. It becomes clear that there are very different levels of what the folks surveyed believe is socially acceptable. What it suggests is that only 30% say that unauthorized sharing is always unacceptable, while the remaining 70% is across the spectrum in terms of how socially acceptable it may be and under what circumstances. I don't think that changes the overall point -- but it is good context for the discussion.

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  1. identicon
    Vic, 2 Mar 2011 @ 11:35am

    I bet there is at least one more category of people that was NOT counted as saying that piracy is socially acceptable. Those are people that officially say that they are against piracy without even realizing that what they do on the Internet sometimes fully qualifies for the same piracy! And we have seen quite a few of those even among celebrities!

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