Digital Content Online Should Be Free, Children Say

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A new survey of young children and adults has found consensus on what should be charged for content online. In both groups, 49% said that people should be able to download content they want for free, with a quarter of 16-24 year olds stating that file-sharing was the only way they could afford to obtain it.

download-keyboardThe results of a new survey commissioned by YouGov SixthSense on the file-sharing and content consumption habits of citizens in the UK have just been published.

Among broader issues, the study, which draws on a sample of 1,907 adults over 16 years old and 614 children aged between 8 and 15, looked at reasons why people use file-sharing sites, plus attitudes towards piracy and paying for content.

Online content should be free

The headline finding presented YouGov suggests that half of the up-and-coming generation believes that the Internet should be a content free-for-all. A total of 49% of the 8 to 15-year-olds questioned said that they believe that people should be able to download the content they want from the Internet for nothing.

Drilling down specifically into attitudes towards file-sharing sites, 6% of children said that using them is easy, with 7% agreeing that it had become the normal thing to do.

Interestingly, YouGov found that when questioning the 16-year-old and above group, the attitudes towards free content were the same, with an identical 49% stating that online content should be free to download.

Motivations to share files

The survey found that the major driver for use of file-sharing sites is cost. While adults tend to have the most disposable income, 51% said that they use file-sharing sites to save money.

Among the children, whose resources are often more limited, 44% said their motivation was financial, with a quarter of 16-24 year olds reporting that file-sharing is the only way they can afford to access content online.

Unsurprisingly, the issue of accessibility came in at a close second place for both groups. The speed and convenience of file-sharing was cited as a key motivator for use by 41% of adults and 38% of the children.

Attitudes towards piracy and sanctions

The mainstream entertainment companies invariably insist that downloading movies and music without permission is tantamount to stealing. However, when it comes to the UK’s children the survey suggests that Big Entertainment has a mountain to climb to have that notion widely adopted. While 16% of children accept that it’s wrong to obtain content for free without the creator’s permission, just 7% believe that file-sharing is a form of stealing.

When it comes to punishing someone, somewhere, for the piracy problem, it comes as little surprise that most of the adults feel that the blame should be placed elsewhere. Rather than being punished for illegal downloading themselves, 60% of the 16-24 year-olds said that the companies and websites providing the content should be punished instead.

The future

Despite the favorable cost and convenience of using unauthorized sources, YouGov notes that opportunities exist for content providers to address those issues. Legal alternatives, such as the free ad-supported model offered by Spotify, are being utilized more, and there are signs that people are happy to pay for exclusive content. Among the children, for example, 13% said they would spend their money if that meant supporting an up-and-coming artist.

“Children in this generation have grown up with digital material and are used to having access to what they want, when they want it and for some of the time not paying for it,” says YouGov Research Director James McCoy.

“Whilst they appreciate the issues surrounding piracy and illegal downloads, if they can get away with it, then they will. Why change the habit of a lifetime?”

McCoy says that the challenge for industry moving forward is to find ways to engage and educate this group “in a relevant and non-condescending way.” That can probably be done, it just might take a little while yet.

The Future of Digital Consumption 2014 can be purchased from YouGov.


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