Ignorance of the law increases teen piracy

14 Feb 2008

A new Microsoft survey has found that teenagers aged between 12 and 16 are less likely to illegally download content from the internet when they are aware of the laws for downloading and sharing content online.

About half of American schoolchildren in the 7th to 10th grades are not familiar with the laws, the survey found. Just 11pc clearly understood the current rules for downloading images, literature, music, movies and software.

The teens who were familiar with the laws around downloading credited their parents, TV or stories in the press as resources for informing them. All these sources were more important than their schools in instructing them of the rules.

In general, teenagers regard illegal downloading over the internet as less offensive than other forms of stealing. Some 48pc indicated people who download illegally should be punished, in contrast with the 90pc who thought punishment should be meted out for stealing a bike.

Those who were familiar with the laws were more likely to think punishment was appropriate for illegal downloading: 82pc of this group said illegal downloaders should be punished, whereas 57pc of those unfamiliar with the laws said violators should be punished.

The survey also found that among teens, peer pressure and cost also have a strong influence on attitudes toward illegal downloading.

“This survey provides more insight into the disparity between IP awareness and young people today and highlights the opportunity for schools to help prepare their students to be good online citizens,” said Sherri Erickson, global manager, Genuine Software Initiative for Microsoft.

In the US, Microsoft is launching a curriculum for middle-school and high-school teachers to help them educate students about how intellectual property rights affect their lives and to spark debate about the grey areas in protected and shared content.

The survey was conducted online and polled 501 teenagers attending 7th through 10th grades. It was conducted on Microsoft’s behalf by KRC Research.

By Niall Byrne