Survey: Most Italian Internet Users Think Ignoring Copyright Harms Publishers, But Not Society As A Whole

from the hearing-from-the-other-side dept

One of the heartening recent developments in the world of digital copyright is that we have moved on from manifestly biased surveys about the evils of piracy and how the solution to everything is harsher punishment for infringement and longer copyright terms, to independent analyses that seek to understand rather than judge and lecture. There's also been a new focus on learning what the public thinks might be an appropriate balance for modern copyright -- something that nobody cared about in the past.

Here's an example of the latter from the Italian lawyer and academic, Simone Aliprandi, building on work done for his PhD thesis. It's a survey of the attitudes of around 1,300 Italian Internet users to copyright, which explores a number of interesting -- and controversial -- areas (original in Italian). For example, it asked whether Italians online think copyright law trumps the rights of users who wish to use existing materials as a jumping off point for further creativity. Here's what Aliprandi found:

The first of the two questions shows a rather unbalanced distribution [of answers] tending towards disagreement, with 41% in complete disagreement and almost 30% in partial disagreement, which means that more than 70% of respondents were not in agreement with the idea that copyright must be respected even at the cost of limiting new ways of making use of content.
Another key question probed what respondents thought about the harm, if any, that using copyright material freely caused:
sections offered various statement about the real harm caused by the widespread practice of using copyright material freely. The first, which can be summarized as "this phenomenon damages mainly the creators", saw a nearly symmetric response, from which it is not possible to deduce the overall view of respondents, who show themselves divided equally between those who agree and those who disagree.

By contrast, the second [statement] shows a net imbalance of replies, with more than 70% of respondents who agreed with the idea that this phenomenon mainly damages the publishers. When instead the statement "this phenomenon damages the socio-economic fabric" was posed, the replies are distributed in a mirror fashion compared to the previous question, with almost 65% disagreeing.

This mirroring is one of the most interesting pieces of information to emerge from the research: basically, respondents are saying on the one hand that they are aware that using copyright material freely harms the publishers more than the creators, while on the other hand they don't agree that this causes damage to the socio-economic fabric (an assumption that forms the leitmotiv of almost all the campaigns against so-called "piracy".)
The rest of the research provides other interesting information about the attitudes of Italian Internet users in this area, and it's a pity it's unlikely to reach a wide audience in its original Italian. Nonetheless, it's a welcome addition to the growing library of such reports from around the world that provide insights into what the forgotten stakeholder in the copyright debate -- the public -- really feels, does and wants.

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Filed Under: copyright, economics, harm, industry, italy, publishers

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  1. icon
    silverscarcat (profile), 6 Aug 2013 @ 6:53pm


    Free stuff is always popular - right until it disappears because no one makes it anymore.

    *sigh* This stupid "argument" again?

    Radio puts out music for free, I don't pay for anything after I get a radio, yet music still gets made.

    TV over broadcast, I don't pay for the channels if I have an antenna up, yet TV is still being made.

    Movies get pirated all the time, yet still get made. If I go out to my grandmother's and pick up an old movie from when I was a kid and watch it, that I didn't buy, do I harm the movie studios?

    BTW, for that stupid argument, I point to you Bill Gates...

    "Bill Gates voiced his dissatisfaction with this argument in his now legendary bitchfest "The Open Letter To Hobbyists." The pre-billionaire Gates pointed out that for some reason, everybody knew not to steal a computer, but considered software free for the taking (he complained that they earned less than $2 an hour for their work on the software, because so few people paid for it). If this continues, Gates argued, why will anybody write software?

    Pirates were undeterred. It didn't take long for hackers to work out ways to trade warez electronically: Early transactions were made through bulletin board systems. These worked similar to the way the modern Internet works... if you had to directly call up each website with your modem and politely request every byte with a cordial handwritten note.

    So, decades later, in an industry where piracy is still rampant and yet a fair amount of software still seems to get written, what became of the major anti-piracy advocates? Well, let's refer back to that earliest and most vocal detractor: Bill Gates.

    He now admits that piracy of its biggest product has actually expanded its market in countries like China, going so far as to say: "As long as they are going to steal it, we want them to steal ours."

    And, come on, look at the damage software piracy has done. If only everybody had paid for their copies, poor Bill Gates might still have a job today... instead of retiring to literally ski everywhere he goes on gigantic drifts of dollars."

    Read more:

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