YouGov report shows young expect free digital content

YouGov in the UK has released a report that found a general consensus that digital content should be free and available to consume anywhere, with children and young adults in particular likely to view P2P file sharing as normal behavior. There is an expectation that content should be available to download and consume regardless of location or device format.

The report found that 49% of children aged 8-15 years old agreed or strongly agreed that you should be able to download or access content for free form the internet. This age group also showed an above-average consensus that using file-sharing sites is so easy that it has become a normal thing to do, although this above-average segment only accounted for 7% of the total age band.

49% of 16-24 year olds said that online content should be freely accessible, and it is no great surprise that free services such as Spotify and YouTube were popular among this segment ‘ suggesting that their interpretation of free can also include ad-supported platforms.

51% of children and 49% of adults who use file sharing websites said that cost was the reason for their use. 25% of 16-24 year olds said that file sharing was the only way they could ‘afford’ to access content, with 27% saying that physical content like CDs and DVDs were too expensive. 41% of adults and 38% of children said that the speed and convenience of file sharing was a key motivator ‘ so content providers can infer that they need to improve in both these areas to possible convert these illegal viewers.

The report found that there was a strong awareness of the ethics involved in file sharing, but that only 16% of children strongly agreed that it was wrong to access content without the creator’s permission. Only 7% thought that file sharing was a form of stealing, which will undoubtedly dismay the content rights holders that have been persistently lobbying for greater copyright protection in the US Congress, often at the expense of privacy on the internet. SOPA, PIPA and CISPA were met with fierce hostility from campaigners ‘ who largely opposed what they saw as heavy-handed unconstitutional invasions of privacy for the benefit of the copyright holder.

20% of the children canvassed said they would pay for content if it provided something new or exclusive, with only 13% saying that they would pay to support ‘up-and-coming’ artists.

60% of 16-24 year olds agreed that the websites allowing access to illegal content should be punished rather than those who have accessed and downloaded the files ‘ shifting the blame from their own actions to those who have enabled them. It can be inferred from that response that file sharing is only so prevalent because it is so easy to do, but the ongoing attempts to shut down the Pirate Bay website are indicative of just how hard it is to remove a popular service from the internet.

This week, Australian ISP iiNet broke ranks and told the Australian government ‘the internet has no gate that we can put a padlock on. The only way the government could stop this traffic would be to block all encrypted traffic, a Herculean task that even the most determined dictatorships struggle to enforce.’ It added that the content industry should ‘start treating your customers as customers, not the enemy, and you might find things improve.’

YouGov research director James McCoy said that the children aged 8-15 years old are the key adopters of digital content and were more familiar with file sharing. ‘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. They do not just listen and watch digital content; they consume it by downloading, file sharing, streaming, making playlists and going on recommendations from friends or contacts via social media.’

He added that ‘while 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? The challenge for the industry is to find ways to engage with this group to change their mind-set about accessing content and to educate them in a relevant and non-condescending way about the issues surrounding this matter.’

The study canvassed 1907 adults over 16 and 614 children aged 8-15.