Illegal file-sharing: what does the public think?

The latest Ofcom survey of internet users in the UK shows that less than half believes downloading shared copies of copyright music and films should be illegal. 42% say it should be illegal, against 33% who believe it shouldn’t be illegal and 25% who don’t know.

I’m not aware of comparable figures for other laws, but 42% strikes me as  being a very low figure. It highlights another problem with the Government’s dalliance with taking tough (sounding) measures to enforce the law. Though Labour now is backing away from the idea that someone could be cut off from the internet without any need to follow a judicial process, that still leaves the question of whether a crack down is really technically workable or the best long term solution. The softness of public support for the law in this area adds another reason to doubt whether the Government is on the right course.

Most strikingly, there has been a clear drop in the popularity of filesharing in the UK – and that wasn’t caused by a crack down but by the increasing availability of legal downloads:

In December 2007 42% of 14-18s were file sharing at least once a month. In January 2009 this was down to just 26%.

The example I’ve used before – wanting to re-watch Mark Cavendish win the last stage of this year’s Tour de France – is still a striking one. There are lots of illegal uploads available for me to watch. What’s extremely difficult to find is any legal way of watching it again (save for an expensive compilation DVD). The real problem there is the lack of availability of legal options. I’m happy to pay to see that clip again. Catch me at the right moment and I’ll even say I want to pay. But that industry doesn’t want my money.

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