What Is The Real Public Opinion Of Online Piracy?

In mid-January, the online world was up in arms about the threat posed by the impending Congressional vote on SOPA and PIPA.  Public outcry, massive social networking campaigns, and high profile blackouts of sites like wikipedia and reddit, certainly brought legislators' attention to the flawed nature of the bills on the table -- and like the Krusty The Clown Show, the proposals were quickly "put on hiatus for retooling."

While those protests and concerns were legitimately aimed at how violators would be identified and the means granted authorities to enforce, a bigger question still looms: what does the public really think of online piracy?  Has the Internet made us complacent with, and fiercely defensive of, accumulating copyrighted music and video content illegitimately?

The evidence would appear to appoint to yes, but I think there is a richer story at play here and one that reveals the lack of foresight, innovation and adaptability of the powerful heads of the companies lobbying to get bills like these through Congress.

What appears to be a bill set up in defense of artists and creative types, upon closer inspection appears more likely to be an attempt to line the pockets of the studios and labels in a gross attempt to exploit them.  Clinging to old business models, and living in a world of pre-Internet technology, they can't seem to understand or establish new ways to offer music at prices that the public finds valuable -- and compensate the artists accordingly.

Check out the following chart from theroot.com.  We're looking at percentage points of your CD purchase making it's way to a musician.

I think music fans have seen through the ruse and are hungry for new ways to consume (and compensate); however, barring that, they are willing to acquire (and share) media by any means necessary. Many of our favorite bands give away high quality live or even studio recordings to develop connections with their fans.  As sales plummet, forward thinking marketers and artists are turning the perception of music buying on its ear, and audiences are more than willing to follow.

We pulled some additional charts from a recent study of 2300 adults by the American Assembly (click the main chart to see the smaller charts in detail).  As threatpost.com summarizes:

And, contrary to the hard line on media piracy voiced by proposed legislation like the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), those polled saw a lot more gray around the issue of copying music and other media. For example, a strong majority said that they felt sharing music was acceptable with family members (75 percent of those surveyed) and friends (56 per cent of those surveyed). The dissemination of copyrighted materials to a network beyond family and friends received very little support in the study, suggesting that respondents didn't view all kinds of copying in the same way.

The data contained in these charts tells an interesting story.  Some pundits view the outcry around SOPA and PIPA as the public speaking out in favor of piracy.  I think there is a spublic conscience and a strong desire to support artists that we appreciate -- we are just not always offered means that make sense to do it (at .99 per track, it would cost nearly $30,000 to fill a 120GB iPod), and we sure don't want to be actively policed as we attempt to do things that are seemingly innocuous.  As always, The Barn recommends you see live music as often as possible.  As of yet, technology has yet to displace that experience!  Your attendance also supports artists in more direct ways (go ahead and buy some merchandise while you're at it).

Click here to read the entire study

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