Teens Less Likely to Download Illegally When They Know the Laws, Microsoft Survey Finds

REDMOND, Wash. — Feb. 13, 2008 —Microsoft Corp. today announced the results of a new survey that found teenagers between seventh and 10th grades are less likely to illegally download content from the Internet when they know the laws for downloading and sharing content online.

About half of those teens, however, said they were not familiar with these laws, and only 11 percent of them clearly understood the current rules for downloading images, literature, music, movies and software. Teens who were familiar with downloading rules credited their parents, TV or stories in magazines and newspapers, and Web sites — more so than their schools — as resources for information about illegal downloading.

“Widespread access to the Internet has amplified the issue of intellectual property rights among children and teens,” said Sherri Erickson, global manager, Genuine Software Initiative for Microsoft. “This survey provides more insight into the disparity between IP awareness and young people today and highlights the opportunity for schools to help prepare their students to be good online citizens.”

Microsoft has enlisted Topics Education, a developer of custom curricula, to help launch the pilot of a broad-based curriculum for middle school and high school educators titled “Intellectual Property Rights Education.” The curriculum is focused on preparing students for the digital age, helping them understand in a meaningful way how intellectual property rights affect their lives and sparking discussion to clarify the “gray areas” in protected and shared content. To complement the curriculum and enhance the learning experience, Microsoft is also launching an interactive Web site, http://www.mybytes.com, where kids can develop their own intellectual property and assign usage rights by mixing music online to create a custom riff that they can download as a ringtone.

Following are additional key findings from the survey:

  • A lack of familiarity with the rules and guidelines for downloading from the Internet contributes to teen opinions that punishment is unnecessary.

    • Almost half of the teenagers surveyed (49 percent) said they are not familiar with the rules and guidelines for downloading images, literature, music, movies and software from the Internet. Only one in 10 (11 percent) said they understood the rules “very well.”

    • Among teenagers who said they were familiar with the laws, more than eight in 10 (82 percent) said illegal downloaders should be punished. In contrast, slightly more than half (57 percent) of those unfamiliar with the laws said violators should be punished.

  • In general, teenagers regard illegal downloading over the Internet as less offensive than other forms of stealing.

    • Less than half of the teens surveyed (48 percent) indicated punishment was appropriate for illegal downloading, while 90 percent indicated punishment was appropriate for stealing a bike.

  • Teens rely on parents for rules on downloading.

    • Teens report that their parents are their main source of information about what they can and cannot do online. Reinforcing the role of parents is the finding that some of the strongest deterrents to stealing and illegally sharing content are the prospective consequences.

    • Among teens who download or share content online, boys are more likely than girls to say that they would not continue after being told the rules* to download or share content over the Internet without paying for it or gaining the owner’s permission (76 percent vs. 68 percent respectively).

  • Teens are challenged by peer pressure and their wallets.

    • Among teens, peer pressure and cost also have a strong influence on attitudes toward illegal downloading.

Meeting the Need for Education

“Intellectual Property Rights Education” is geared toward eighth-, ninth- and 10th-grade educators for field testing through March 2008. Following the field test the program will be assessed for rollout later in the year. Sponsored and made available to teachers for free by Microsoft, the curriculum will be a combination of content-rich Web resources targeting middle school and high school students and case-study-driven, experiential learning lesson plans for various subject areas. Accompanying the curriculum is an interactive public Web site, MyBytes, which provides a venue where students can create custom ringtones and share their own content, offer their opinions and learn more about intellectual property rights regardless of their participation in the curriculum. Further information about MyBytes is available at http://www.mybytes.com. Educators are encouraged to visit Microsoft’s curriculum Web site at http://www.ipreducation.com to participate in the field test to teach the curriculum or to evaluate the program and provide feedback. The field test program will end March 28, 2008.

About the Teen Attitudes Survey

The online survey of 501 teenagers attending seventh through 10th grades was conducted by KRC Research on behalf of Microsoft. The interviews were conducted between Jan. 14 and 17, 2008. The estimated margin of error for the national study is ±4.4 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level. Additional results can be viewed at http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/download/press/2008/02-13KRCStudy.pdf.

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

* Teens were told, “Currently, the general rules and guidelines concerning these types of downloads are that you have to either pay a fee for the content or gain the content owner’s permission to download or use it. When you do not follow these rules, you are open to significant fines and possibly jail time.”

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