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Business News (more headlines) 05-18-2004

Majority Of Youth Understand 'Copyright,' But Many Continue To Download Illegally

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An understanding of copyright law is not enough to stop kids from downloading copyrighted software, games, music and other digital media through illegal, online file-sharing networks, according to a new Harris Interactive poll conducted for the Business Software Alliance (BSA).

A majority of youth are aware that digital media files are copyrighted (91 percent of young people are aware that books are copyrighted; 88 percent, movies; 88 percent, music; 86 percent, software; 83 percent, games and 64 percent, Web sites), yet many of them admit to downloading files anyway. Just over half say they download music (53 percent) and a third download games (32 percent), while fewer kids say they download larger digital files such as commercial software (22 percent) and movies (17 percent).

The nationwide opinion poll asked more than 1,100 youth, ages eight to 18, about their attitudes toward copyright law and Internet behavior, including uploading and downloading copyrighted files through online peer-to-peer (P2P) sites.*

"Unfortunately, many kids and teens continue to download copyrighted works illegally even though more than half of them think there are laws against downloading digital works," said Diane Smiroldo, vice president of public affairs for BSA.

"What's most alarming is that eight out of 10 kids and teens understand the definition of copyright and nearly all of them, especially teens, are aware that software, music and movies are protected by copyright. The fact that kids know stealing software is wrong, and yet they behave like it's okay, clearly illustrates a challenging ethical dilemma."

Survey Highlights:

Kids Are Unsure About Uploading, Downloading and the Law

Violations of copyright law among kids and teens may occur because young people are less likely to think there are laws against uploading and downloading digital media online.

Three in 10 kids and teens are unsure whether it is okay to upload software on the Internet without paying. However, nearly a third are sure it is okay, with teens feeling most strongly. On the whole, young people are more certain when asked about music (43 percent).

When it comes to illegally downloading software, three in 10 young people think it is okay, with even more downloading other types of media (music, movies and games). Where 42 percent are more likely to be unsure if there are laws against downloading software, only 26 percent are unsure about music. Teens are more likely to say there are laws against illegally downloading.

File-Sharing Risks Worry Young People

Kids and teens are more worried about technological problems while downloading digital media than they are about the ethics of stealing.

When illegally downloading, young people worry more about accidentally downloading a computer virus (60 percent) than they do about whether they can get in trouble with the law (50 percent) or accidentally downloading spyware (43 percent). Only 29 percent worry that the act is wrong. Girls worry more about all risks, and boys (19 percent) are more likely to say that none of these things worry them.

Risks aside, those who think that illegally downloading software is okay have their reasons:

* I do not have money to pay for software (51 percent)
* I wouldn't use the software if I had to pay for it (35 percent)
* lots of people do it (33 percent)
* it doesn't hurt anybody when I do this (26 percent)
* no one has ever told me not to (19 percent)
* I won't get in trouble for doing it (15 percent)
* my parents have said it is okay (8 percent)

Teens are more likely to cite financial reasons.

Anti-Piracy Education Is Key to Ethical Behavior

"What's of most concern is that kids take big risks to steal software and they perceive it as a victimless crime. One in four says 'it doesn't hurt anybody when I do this' and that underscores a cyber ethics education deficiency at home and in the schools," says Smiroldo.

Most youth say their education about laws protecting creative works online stems from watching television (59 percent). Other sources include a parent (44 percent), the Internet (44 percent), advertisements (36 percent), friends (30 percent) and teachers (18 percent). Younger kids (ages eight to 12) are more likely to say they learn about laws from their parents (44 percent).

"It's critical that parents and teachers continue to educate our young people about the importance of cyber ethics and respect for intellectual property. Parents should supervise their kids activities online, since much of this behavior takes place at home," says Smiroldo.

"Our hope is that parents and educators utilize the many resources available to teach youth to become good cyber citizens, so that these kids do the right thing as they get older."

To provide guidance in teaching children about respect for digital works online and becoming good cyber citizens, BSA offers parents, teachers and students a variety of free materials and tools on cyber ethics, including its curriculum, "Play It Safe In Cyberspace." The curriculum is available for free download at www.PlayitCyberSafe.com and was co-produced by the children's publisher Weekly Reader. Since its initial distribution in 2002, the curriculum has reached more than 13 million kids, parents and teachers.

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