Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

One in five downloaders has copied files from other people’s iPods or MP3 players

WASHINGTON, March 23 — About 36 million Americans—or 27% of internet users—say they download either music or video files and about half of them have found ways outside of traditional peer-to-peer networks or paid online services to gather and swap their files, according to the most recent survey of the Pew Internet & American Life Project. The Project’s national survey of 1,421 adult Internet users conducted between January 13 and February 9, 2005 shows that 19% of current music and video downloaders, about 7 million adults, say they have downloaded files from someone else’s iPod or MP3 player. About 28%, or 10 million people, say they get music and video files via email and instant messages. There is some overlap between these two groups; 9% of downloaders say they have used both of these sources. In all, 48% of current downloaders have used sources other than peer-to-peer networks or paid music and movie services to get music or video files. Beyond MP3 players, email and instant messaging, these alternative sources include music and movie websites, blogs and online review sites. The survey of internet users has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent. “Though much public attention has been paid to the file-sharing activity that happens on peer-to-peer networks, it’s harder to monitor the type of everyday sharing or ‘privatized’ file-sharing that is taking place between informal networks of friends and family,” said Mary Madden, a Research Specialist at the Pew Internet Project who wrote a new Project report on file-sharing. “We’ve seen the recording industry lawsuits deter some peer-to-peer users and many have migrated to paid music services. But the most striking new observation is the incidence of workarounds and alternative ways people are using to trade files.” There are several other highlights in the new Pew Internet Project survey:

  • 49% of all Americans and 53% of internet users believe that the firms that own and operate file-sharing networks should be deemed responsible for the pirating of music and movie files. Some 18% of all Americans think individual file traders should be held responsible and 12% say both companies and individuals should shoulder responsibility. Almost one in five Americans (18%) say they do not know who should be held responsible or refused to answer the question.
  • The public is sharply divided on the question of whether government enforcement against music and movie pirates will work, but broadband users strongly believe that a government crackdown will not succeed. Some 38% of all Americans believe that government efforts would reduce file-sharing and 42% believe that government enforcement would not work very well. Broadband users are more skeptical about government anti-piracy efforts. Some 57% of broadband users believe there is not much the government can do to reduce illegal file-sharing, compared to 32% who believe that enforcement would help control piracy.
  • Current file downloaders are now more likely to say they use online music services like iTunes than they are to report using p2p services. The percentage of music downloaders who have tried paid services has grown from 24% in 2004 to 43% in our most recent survey. However, respondents may now be less likely to report peer-to-peer usage due to the stigma associated with the networks.
  • The percentage of internet users who say they download music files has increased from 18% (measured in a February 2004 survey) to 22% in our latest survey from January 2005. Still, this number continues to rest well-below the peak level (32%) that we registered in October 2002.
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