A survey of attitudes toward intellectual property recently conducted by Columbia University in New York found that an astonishing 70 percent of all respondents in the 18- to 29-year-old age group admitted to having downloaded, copied or purchased movies, television shows or music in violation of copyright laws. The percentage of all adults who engaged in such activities is 46 percent, or almost half, but among young people, it is the overwhelming majority.
In response, entertainment companies have pursued enforcement actions against individuals: suing them to collect damages, imposing fines or even seeking criminal prosecution and prison time for copyright scofflaws. Harsher anti-piracy laws being considered by Congress would make it illegal for Google and other search engines to present links to websites in other countries suspected of unlawfully reproducing copyrighted material without authorization. Big media giants such as Viacom are also engaged in litigation wars against popular websites such as YouTube, which allow anyone to post material, arguing that they facilitate copyright infringement.
Some argue, however, that the entertainment industry should recognize that the demand for easy access to copyrighted material by Internet users is not the problem. Rather, it may be the failure of the entertainment industry to provide easier access to their content at reasonable prices. More young people might be willing to pay if the content was available at a discount price with a licensing agreement or subscription service, for example.
Users complain, for instance, about being asked to pay several times for the same content, such as when they purchase a DVD movie that can be viewed at home on a TV set, but cannot be easily or legally copied to watch outside the home on an iPad or smartphone.
Some advocates of easier access to copyrighted material point to the success of Apple’s iTunes, which made it convenient and relatively economical for many to legally pay for and download music rather than searching online for illegal downloads.
In the end, the solution probably means finding some middle ground between free and overpriced content, and making sure consumers can easily access it — legally.
Source: Star Tribune, “Young people’s free-wheeling view of copyrighted material shaping its future distribution,” Martha Irvine, Feb. 18, 2012