Downloading, Ethical Yet Illegal?

College students think free web downloads are no big deal.

By Colin Allen, published on September 1, 2003 - last reviewed on January 23, 2015

It may be illegal, but most college students have no qualms about
downloading entertainment from the Internet. They feel no moral
obligation to pay for music, videos or anything else they find online,
according to a study from the University of Arkansas.

Of a group of 82 students, 70 percent admitted downloading some
type of copyrighted material. Music was most popular: 81 percent had
copied at least one song. Movies and video trailed further behind: 29
percent of downloaders had clips on the computers that were originally
from the Web.

Almost 60 percent of downloaders thought what they had done was
ethically acceptable. Nearly half justified their actions by arguing that
companies overcharge, or that artists make enough money in the first
place. Another 23 percent felt that downloading was akin to borrowing
music from a friend.

There still may be hope for the entertainment industry. About 70
percent of the downloaders are willing to ante up for music, if the
process is friendly enough. "They were very demanding as to what they
expected from a website," says head researcher Norma Mendoza. Students
expect a website to have a wide selection and fair pricing, to begin
with. Mendoza notes that most companies have failed to provide the
selection and convenience offered by file sharing programs like KaZaA,
Limewire and Acquisition.

"Ultimately," says Mendoza, "people do want to do the right thing
if it is at the right price," The findings were presented at the 2003
Marketing and Public Policy Conference in Washington, D.C.