January 27, 2001

According to a recent survey of Internet users conducted by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), consumers believe they should get content online for free. The results of the survey show that 89 percent of Internet users download multimedia content and information.

According to CEA’s ”Digital Download” survey, a good portion of respondents oppose any kind of Internet government fees or restrictions. Ninety-two percent oppose paying taxes for accessing the Internet, another 75 percent oppose paying sales tax for items purchased online and 61 percent oppose laws that prevent the usage of file sharing software such as Napster.

”This survey underscores that we are on a collision course between intellectual property owners who want consumers to pay by the bit for access and consumers who want free access, but will pay for better or more complete content,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of CEA. ”Public policy debates must shift to reflect the paradigm of the new economy as technology creates new ways for more consumers to access information and entertainment. We must protect the ability of technologies to evolve, especially those that allow personal, non-commercial recording. These new technologies vastly expand our collective knowledge base and ultimately benefit those most concerned-copyright owners.”

In the survey, most online consumers have downloaded various types of multimedia content and information in the past year, and many who have not downloaded online content, expect to do so within one year to two years.

Half of Internet users oppose fees for downloading content online, and in the cases of fees for downloading information, pictures, audio files and games, consumer opposition rises as high as 77 percent.

The survey also points out that while Internet users want their online content to be free, this free content does not seem to be deeply diminishing their purchasing habits. In fact many times, free online content spurs future purchases of music, videos, books, games and computing software, countering the content industry’s fear of losing sales to the Internet. Online households noted that being able to download items from the Internet onto their hard drives led them to increase their purchases of similar items online, through the mail or at a store.

If consumers can sample content on the Internet for free, most say that they are even more likely to purchase that content. In the case of online music, 33 percent say they will buy more music if they can sample it online, justifying the acts of numerous recording artists who preview their songs on the Internet.

”Almost every technology innovation from the VCR to the CD has enriched the same copyright owners that initially attacked it. Consumers want free and public access to content online, and those same consumers are more likely to purchase similar content once they experience it online,” commented Shapiro. ”The challenge for our industry is to develop new business models, products, technologies, and services which provide a balance between the legitimate interest of content owners and the desires expressed by consumers in this survey.”

For more information at http://eBrain.org.

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