Poll Finds Most People Think It's OK To Share Music Online

Only 37 percent say it's never acceptable to download copyrighted work.

The music industry repeatedly tries to drill it in our heads that downloading is a crime that deprives musicians of their income. But how is that argument playing with music fans?

According to a CBS News/New York Times poll released Friday (September 19), only 37 percent of Americans believe it's never OK to share copyrighted music online.

Fifty-eight percent of Americans polled said that sharing music files over the Internet is an acceptable practice in at least some circumstances. Of those, 14 percent said it is always acceptable, while 44 percent said it is acceptable if a person owns the CD and shares it with a limited number of friends.

The survey found that those aged 18-29 are three times as likely as those over 30 to say it's always acceptable, no matter the circumstances. Twenty-nine percent of them said it is, compared with just 9 percent of adults age 30 or older.

As for legally purchasing songs online, the poll found varying opinions as to what is a fair price. Asked what they would pay for a song they could download and burn onto their own CD, 15 percent said 50 cents or less, 29 percent named a price between 51 cents and $1, and another 13 percent named prices between $1.01 and $2. Six in 10 under age 30 said the price should be no more than $1.

Most of those surveyed admitted they have not been paying much attention to digital music issues. Only 39 percent said they've followed the issue at least somewhat closely, and 37 percent have not been following the issue at all. Only 8 percent said they follow it very closely. The exception was people under 30, most of whom report that they follow digital music issues at least somewhat closely, with men playing more attention than women.

The poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 675 adults interviewed by telephone on Monday and Tuesday. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percent.

CBS News/New York Times Poll

How closely have you followed the issue of people sharing music for free through the Internet? Would you say you've followed it very closely, somewhat closely, not very closely, or not at all?

Total %% 18-29% 30 and older

Very closely8137

Somewhat closely313929

Not very closely231924

Not at all372840

Don't know/No answer110

Those who follow the issue were asked: When it comes to sharing music over the Internet for free, which comes closest to your view?
1. Sharing music files over the Internet is ALWAYS acceptable, no matter how many copies are made, or by whom, OR
2. Sharing music files over the Internet is SOMETIMES acceptable, if a person shares music from a CD he or she owns with a limited number of friends or acquaintances, OR
3. Sharing music files over the Internet is NEVER acceptable because it deprives musicians and music companies of their income?

Total %% 18-29% 30 and older

ALWAYS acceptable14299

SOMETIMES acceptable444046

NEVER acceptable373040

Don't know/No answer515

Several companies are now letting people purchase individual songs over the Internet for a small price. What do you think would be a fair price to pay for an individual song that you could get on the Internet, listen to and burn onto your own CD?

Total %% 18-29% 30 and older

Up to 50 cents152712

51 cents to $1293328

$1.01 to $2131712

$2.01 to $5171518

More than $5203


Don't know/No answer23627

For complete digital music coverage, check out the Digital Music Reports.