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Downloaders Disregard Legal, Copyright Issues

Coming on the heels of Jupiter Research's (a unit of this site's corporate parent) re-assessment of the online music industry are insights from The Pew Internet Project about American downloaders and file-sharers.

Jupiter projects online music will grow from less than $1 billion in 2003 to $3.3 billion in 2008, when the Internet will account for 26 percent of U.S. music spending. Online CD sales will remain essentially flat in 2003, at $750 million.

"While Apple has rekindled interest in digital downloads, total digital sales — downloads and subscriptions — will not surpass $80 million this year," said Lee Black, senior analyst, Jupiter Research. "The industry is suffering from competition for entertainment dollars, changing demographics, the end of the CD upgrade cycle and piracy," added Black.

According to the data from both Jupiter and Pew, Internet users hold little regard for the legal and copyright issues surrounding file-sharing. Jupiter's survey shows that only 17 percent of online adults say that they've cut back on their file-sharing due to fear of legal consequences, and the 2003 Pew survey found that 67 percent of downloaders and 65 percent of file-sharers say they do not care if the music is copyrighted.

Pew's research, conducted among roughly 2,500 Americans through March and May 2003, indicates that there are 35 million U.S. adults who download music files online and about 26 million who share files online, and the downloading population has grown by approximately 5 million users since February of 2001.

Who's Downloading?
Internet Population February 2001 March-May 2003 Change
All U.S. Adults 29% 29% 0
Men 36% 32% -4%
Women 23% 26% +3%
Whites 26% 28% +2%
Blacks 30% 37% +7%
Hispanics 46% 35% -11%
Ages 18-29 51% 52% +1%
Ages 30-49 23% 27% +4%
Age 50+ 15% 12% -3%
Under $30k household per year 36% 38% +2%
$30k-$50k per year 31% 30% -1%
$50k-$75k per year 29% 28% -1%
Over $75k household per year 24% 26% +2%
Less than high school education 55% 39% -16%
High school graduates 31% 31% 0%
Some college 32% 33% +1%
College degree or more 21% 23% +2%
Note: Margin of error is + or - 3%
Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project

The Pew study found that file-sharers make up a somewhat different demographic slice of Internet users than downloaders, though 42 percent of downloaders share files.

File-sharers are equally as likely to be men or women, and equally as likely to be white, black or Hispanic. Not surprisingly, they are more likely to be younger, with 31 percent of those aged 18 to 29 sharing files. The percentage of file-sharers among Internet users drops steadily with age, with 18 percent of those 30 to 49 sharing files on down to 15 percent of those Internet users 50 and older.

Income level and education level show almost no correlation with file-sharing behavior. College grads are slightly less likely than high school grads (17 percent vs. 22 percent) to share files online, but otherwise all Internet users are equally likely to be file-sharing, regardless of education. Income is similar, with no statistically significant difference among the income groups' likelihood of file-sharing.

Who Cares? Downloaders and File-Sharers
Who Show The Least Concern for Copyright
Infringement
Internet Population Downloaders Who
Don't Care
File-sharers Who
Don't Care
Ages 18-29 72% 82%
Ages 30-49 61% NA
Full-time students 80% 80%
Part-time students 64% 75%
Non-students 63% 59%
College graduates 56% 56%
Parents 58% 57%
Non-parents 75% 71%
Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project