• United States
by Ann Harrison

Are lawsuits intimidating students?

Sep 25, 20034 mins
Enterprise Applications

* File trading is down but so are CD sales

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According to a study released this month by the Business Software Alliance, almost two-thirds of college students surveyed said they would still download copyright software if given the opportunity. 

The study, called “Internet Piracy on Campus,” surveyed 1,000 students and 300 faculty members. The report blames university educators and claims that 40% of educators believe it’s OK to share or exchange software to cut costs. I remember swapping a lot of used expensive textbooks during my college days.

According to the study, of the 69% of students who have downloaded music, only 8% paid for it. Almost one-quarter of the respondents say they have downloaded movies, but only 4% paid for those. A full 93% of students polled did endorse intellectual property rights.

“Students aren’t being told, ‘Downloading unlicensed or illegal files is a mistake,'” BSA CEO Robert Holleyman said in a statement. “With P2P use on the rise, student and educator attitudes toward illegal downloading and file swapping, if ignored, have the potential to become a gateway for increased software piracy on thousands of college campuses.”

The BSA study is contrasted nicely by another study published by AT&T Labs which shows that the main source of unauthorized copies of new movies on file sharing networks seems to be not consumers, or students, but entertainment industry insiders.

According to the study, nearly 300 copies of popular movies found by the researchers on P2P networks “appeared to have been leaked by industry insiders” before the consumer DVD release date. If you know anyone in the entertainment industry, this makes perfect sense. Industry insiders pride themselves on never paying full freight for newly released material and if they do, it’s a sign that they lack sufficient mojo.

Ken Jacobsen, senior vice president and director of worldwide piracy issues for the Motion Picture Association admitted to the “New York Times” that industry insiders do distribute copyrighted works. “The industry experience is the awards screeners are a source for piracy,” Jacobsen told the Times, “but primarily during the Oscar judging season.”

Trading full-length films or HDTV programs is not so widespread as swapping music files because of the size of the files. But according to Forrester Research, 20% of 12 to 22-year-olds who participate in file trading have downloaded a feature film. The film studios should learn from the botched strategy of the music industry and get to work building online distribution business models for affordable video-on-demand.

By some measures, the RIAA lawsuits are discouraging file trading. According to Nielsen/Net Ratings, Kazaa usage has dropped since May when 6.2 million people logged on to the network, compared with 4.3 million during the last week of August. Another researcher, The NPD Group also reports that people are downloading about 30% fewer songs now than during the spring, from about 852 million songs downloaded onto PCs in April, to 612 million in July.

But these figures do not tell the story of the growing backlash. When the RIAA launched its subpoena campaign against file traders on June 15, CD sales were down 6.1% year to date. Since launching the campaign, the decline in CD sales has accelerated at least 54%. Traffic to the Boycott-RIAA Web site is also up and file-trading networks report that downloads of their software remain high. Streamcast reports that its downloads have almost doubled this past summer.

The RIAA lawsuits will not drive people away from file trading, and they will certainly not spark CD sales. This litigation will simply motivate music fans to find less identifiable ways to swap music files or seek music from musicians that are not sanctioned by the RIAA.

For those readers writing in for information about how not to get sued by the RIAA, I suggest an excellent Web site on the topic offered by the Electronic Frontier Foundation: How Not To Sued By The RIAA For File Sharing –