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File Sharing Graduates To iPods

A recent survey found that some 19% of those who download audio and video files--about 7 million adults--admit to having downloaded files from someone else's iPod or MP3 player.

Less than a week before the U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in MGM v. Grokster--in which the court will decide whether technology companies can be held liable for the illegal activities of their users--a new survey from the nonprofit Pew Internet & American Life Project finds that 27% of U.S. Internet users, or 36 million Americans, say they're downloading audio and video files outside of the peer-to-peer networks and paid online services

The emerging media for content exchange include digital audio players, E-mail, instant messaging, blogs, and other Web sites. Some 19% of those who download audio and video files--about 7 million adults--admit to having downloaded files from someone else's iPod or MP3 player.

Mary Madden, a research specialist at Pew Internet & American Life Project, believes these findings have important implications to the MGM case in terms of extending the file-sharing debate beyond the peer-to-peer networks. "We wanted to look at some of the other types of hardware and software that can potentially be used for infringing purposes," she says. "While we don't know what percentage of these files are authorized or not, simply to know that downloaders are getting files from a wider array of sources than peer-to-peer and paid sources is an important point."

The survey finds the public divided about the effectiveness of government copyright enforcement. Thirty-eight percent of Americans express faith in the government's ability to reduce illegal file sharing, while 42% believe the government's actions are ineffective. But broadband users--the group for whom downloading is the easiest--are more skeptical of government anti-piracy efforts, with 57% voicing the view that enforcement doesn't work.

The number of Internet users who say they download music files reached 22%, up from 18% in February 2004 but below the peak of 32% in October 2002. Among those who identified themselves as former music downloaders--10% of Internet users--28% acknowledged that they changed their behavior because they were afraid of getting into trouble, some specifically citing the Recording Industry Association of America's ongoing legal campaign against file sharers as their motivation to reform.

The study is the result of a phone survey of 1,421 adult Internet users.

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