Though the Supreme Court unanimously ruled against Grokster and other file-sharing programs, the community of Internet users is split over whether file sharing of copyrighted materials such as music and movies should be illegal.On Monday, the Supreme Court held Internet file-sharing services liable if their intent is for customers to use software primarily to swap songs and movies illegally, rejecting warnings that the lawsuits will stunt growth of cool tech gadgets such as the next iPod.
But Internet users are equally divided--44% to 44%--on whether such file-sharing practices should be banned, according to a survey conducted in May among 1,062 Americans by market-research firm Solutions Research Group.
When the opinions of non-Net users are thrown into the mix, 45% favor outlawing file-sharing of copyrighted content vs. 39% who favor the practice. Regionally, opposition to the practice was highest in the West (51%) and the South (50%). In the Northeast, only one-third of survey respondents supported a ban.
Not surprisingly, younger Americans were more willing to cast a blind eye on copyright protection than their elders. So, too, were users of devices such as MP3 players and broadband. By 54% to 34%, Internet users ages 12 to 29 favored file sharing; MP3 owners liked file sharing 55% to 35%, and those who have downloaded music--free or paid--approved of the procedure by a whopping 63% to 27%.
The strongest opposition to file sharing came from Americans 50 years old and older; 51% opposed illicit filing sharing vs. 27% who supported it.
The study's director, Kaan Yigit, pointed out the striking magnitude of the generation gap in attitudes toward file sharing. "As the first generation raised on the browse, sample, and share culture of the Internet," Yigit wrote in a commentary accompanying the survey results, "young Americans are challenging the traditional notions of intellectual property."