Good Online Music Services Would Beat Punishment, Say File-Sharers

The provision of appealing, legal online music services would be a more powerful incentive to stop illegal file-sharing than the proposed cutting off of internet access, copyright-infringing downloaders have told a think tank.

While 61% of users of illegal download services told researchers for policy think tank Demos that the threat of internet access suspension would stop them downloading, 64% said that the availability of cheap legal alternatives would stop them.

The survey found that people who do not engage in illegal downloading, though, do so because of the potential legal consequences. Those who said they did not engage in illegal file-sharing said that legal issues were the main reason they refrained, ahead of worries about computer security or moral concerns.

The survey of 1,008 internet users aged between 16 and 50 was carried out for Demos to uncover attitudes to music acquisition and piracy.

It found that the 9% of users who admitted participating in illegal file-sharing spent significantly more on music that the average surveyed internet user. Eight out of 10 illegal file-sharers paid for music and the average spend was £77 a year, compared with an average of £44 per year spent by people who do not illegally download.

The Government has proposed allowing internet connections used by people accused of file sharing to be cut off without going through the courts. The controversial plan was a late addition to the Government's Digital Britain consultation. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) inserted it into the consultation after the Digital Britain report itself had failed to recommend it.

Demos said that the research undermines claims that the cutting off of connections used by alleged file-sharers will stop the activity.

"The latest approach from the government will not help to prop up an ailing music industry," said Peter Bradwell, a Demos researcher. "Politicians and music companies need to recognise that the nature of music consumption has changed and consumers are demanding lower prices and easier access to music.”

The research was carried out by polling firm Ipsos MediaCT for Demos and was sponsored by ISP Virgin Media.

Last week a major ISP threatened a legal challenge to the Government's plan. Talk Talk said that if it was ordered to disconnect a household because of a member's alleged activity without any court oversight it would go to the courts.

"Talk Talk will continue to resist any attempts to make it impose technical measures on its customers unless directed to do so by a court or recognised tribunal," it said in a statement. "In the event we are instructed to impose extra judicial technical measures we will challenge the instruction in the courts."