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Survey Finds P2P Isn’t Only Problem For Music Industry

Washington — About 27 percent of all Internet users — or 36 million Americans — say they download music or video files, and 48 percent of them have found download sources other than peer-to-peer (P2P) networks and authorized download sites, according to a survey by The Pew Internet & American Life Project.

The alternatives are direct transfers from portable MP3 players, e-mail, instant messaging, movie and music Web sites, blogs and online review sites, according to the project, a nonprofit initiative funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts to explore the impact of the Internet on American life.

The survey found that:

  •  About 19 percent of those who download music and video, or about 7 million adults, said they have downloaded files from someone’s MP3 player. A total of 15 percent say they currently do it, and 4 percent said they used to do it.
  • About 28 percent, or 10 million people, said they get music and video files via e-mail and instant messages.
  • 9 percent said they have used both of these sources.
  • 20 percent of those who download now get music or video files via e-mail, and 8 percent said they’ve done so in the past.
  • Music-related Web sites such as online magazines and musicians’ homepages have attracted 23 percent of people who download at one time or another, and 17 percent report that they currently use these sources.
  • And 7 percent of people who download currently download or have downloaded music and video from music and movie blogs. Only 4 percent currently do so, however.

Pew described the non-P2P phenomenon as the “privatization” of file-sharing, and it said portable MP3 players “are emerging as an alternative way to access media files and avoid some of the potential risks of peer-to-peer usage.” The phenomenon is occurring even though “copying files from others’ MP3 players can require elaborate workarounds depending on the type of player, the software used to rip the files, and whether or not the files are copy protected,” Pew said.

Pew based its results on a phone survey of 1,421 adult Internet users conducted between Jan. 13 and Feb. 9. The margin of error is three points.

The latest survey also found that the percentage of Internet users who download music is heading back up but remains below levels that existed before the music industry began suing P2P users in mid-2003, Pew said. The percentage who download music rose from 18 percent in February 2004 to 22 percent in February 2005, but at its peak in October 2002 the percentage was 32 percent.

Among all people who download music, a growing percentage say they are using authorized download sites. The percentage of people who download music who are using or who have used paid services has grown from 24 percent in 2004 to 43 percent in 2005. In breaking out those numbers, Pew said that in 2004 17 percent of people who downloaded music were actively using paid services while 7 percent reported using them in the past. In the 2005 survey, 34 percent of people who download music said they currently use paid services, while 9 percent said they have tried them in the past.

Pew noted, however, that respondents might be less likely to report peer-to-peer usage because of the “stigma” attached to unauthorized file sharing.

In comparison, just 2 percent of people who download video say they currently use a paid online movie download service such as Movielink, while 5 percent have done so in the past.

In other findings:

  • Broadband fueled music and movie downloading growth in past year. A total of 50 percent of all home internet users have broadband access compared to the year-ago 42 percent. Of all broadband users, 29 percent download music, up from 23 percent in early 2004 but below spring 2003’s peak of 41 percent.
  • Broadband users are more likely to own an MP3 portable. The survey found that only 15 percent of Internet users own a portable MP3 player, but 31 percent of always-on broadband users own MP3 portables. Overall, 29 percent of current people who download music and video said they own an iPod or other MP3 player.
  • Young dudes rule. A total of 25 percent of male Internet users and only 19 percent of female Internet users say they download music. A total of 40 percent of users aged 18 to 29 are people who download music, but just 18 percent of 30 to 49 year olds say they get music this way. Another 13 percent of 50- to 64-year-olds report downloading music.