When is it OK to copy digital media?

Summary:The response to the digital media ethics poll I posted earlier this week has been overwhelming. Based on these results, thne RIAA and its allies are clearly losing the battle of ideas. Here's a summary of the voting so far, along with links so you can add your opinion.

The response so far to my digital media ethics poll has been overwhelming. More than 7,500 votes have been cast so far, with nearly 500 comments posted in the Talkback sections for the introductory post and the poll itself. I plan to keep the voting open at least through the end of the weekend. So if you haven't voted yet, do it soon.

Here's a summary of the results so far, followed by some preliminary analysis:

  • The overwhelming majority (96%) think that buying a CD and making a copy for personal use is OK. But 40% think that some types of copies are more acceptable than others. I'm sifting through the comments to see if I can refine that conclusion. Vote or see detailed results here.
  • More than four out of five respondents so far think it's wrong to rip a CD to your hard drive and then sell the original CD. More people approve of simple CD sharing among friends. I'm struck, though, by a significant gap in perceptions: A total of 32% of respondents think it's always or sometimes OK to buy a CD and make a copy to give to a friend. But 41% think it's OK to borrow a friend's CD and rip it to your hard drive. I'm not sure I see the distinction. Do you? Vote or see detailed results here. Then add your comment in the Talkback section.
  • A large majority (82%) believe that stripping copy protection (DRM) from purchased music files is perfectly OK. On the other hand, three out of four readers think it's wrong to copy a rented DVD. Vote or see detailed results here.
  • And finally, 75% of you think it's just fine to download a torrent of a recorded TV show from a broadcast network, but a significant percentage (34-42%) think the rules should be different for premium services like HBO or for programs that are available through authorized channels. Vote or see detailed results here.

The entertainment industry wants you to believe that making a copy of a music CD or a DVD for a friend is digital shoplifting (or, in their cringe-worthy neologism, "songlifting"). Based on the preliminary results of this poll, with more than 40% of respondents giving a thumbs-up to some forms of casual copying among friends, the RIAA is clearly losing that battle of ideas. And the technically savvy ZDNet readership might be more sympathetic to the RIAA's position than the rest of the market; a 2006 Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg News survey found that 69% of the teenagers they polled think it's not just right but it's legal to copy a CD from a friend.

I'll have some more thoughts on why the entertainment industry has done such a crappy job of coping with the analog-to-digital conversion next week, with a much more detailed look at this poll's final results and your comments.

Topics: Legal

About

Ed Bott is an award-winning technology writer with more than two decades' experience writing for mainstream media outlets and online publications. He has served as editor of the U.S. edition of PC Computing and managing editor of PC World; both publications had monthly paid circulation in excess of 1 million during his tenure. He is the a... Full Bio

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