By David McGuire washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 18, 2004; 5:39 PM
More than half of young Americans with Internet access continue to download free music even though they know that they are breaking the law, according to a poll released today.
Eighty-eight percent of the respondents know that most popular music is copyrighted, but 56 percent download it anyway, according to the survey of 1,183 children, ages eight to 18. The survey also found that more kids worry about downloading computer viruses with their songs than about getting in trouble with the law.
Similarly high numbers of children know that books, software and games are copyrighted, the poll found, though a third download games and only 17 percent download considerably larger movie files. About 43 percent of the respondents said that they think downloading music is "OK" and 30 percent said the same about downloading software.
The survey was conducted between April 14 and April 20 by Harris Interactive. It was commissioned by the Business Software Alliance (BSA), a Washington, D.C.-based lobbying firm that fights software piracy. The BSA's members include Microsoft Corp., Apple Computer and Adobe Inc.
The responses show that the software and entertainment industries need to step up their efforts to make sure children behave in a legal manner while they are on the Internet, said BSA spokeswoman Diane Smiroldo.
"It's a very good sign that a lot of kids and youth understand that creative works online are protected by copyright law," Smiroldo said. "[But if] they're still doing the wrong thing, that's not good."
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and other lobbying groups that represent the entertainment industry have spent millions of dollars on national campaigns to educate children and adults about copyright law and piracy. The RIAA has enlisted high-profile musicians from Madonna and Mandy Moore to Stevie Wonder and Andrea Bocelli to spread the word, while movie studios run anti-piracy ads in movie theaters. The BSA conducted its own anti-piracy campaign and occasionally coordinates its efforts with the entertainment industry.
The recording industry says compact disc sales have dropped from a high of $13.2 billion in 2000 to $11.2 billion in 2003, much of it because of piracy. The BSA says piracy costs its members at least $13 billion a year.
The RIAA has gone a step beyond its public awareness campaign against piracy, suing more than 1,000 suspected file-sharers, some as young as 12.
The Justice Department launched its own crackdown on file-sharing sites in late April, conducting more than 120 searches in 10 countries and 27 U.S. states on Web site operators suspected of trafficking in illegally copyrighted material. "Operation Fastlink" targeted networks suspected of distributing more than $50 million in software, music and movies.