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Study: Most don't see downloading movies as 'very serious'

Most people believe downloading copyright movies without paying for them is not a "big deal," says study director.

Most Americans know where to draw the line when it comes to leaving a store without paying for a DVD, but downloading copyright movies is a different matter, according to a study released Thursday.

In a survey of 2,600 Americans via the Internet and in telephone interviews, Digital Life America found 78 percent considered taking a DVD from a store without paying as a "very serious offense." Contrast that with the 40 percent who said they believe it is a "very serious offense" to download copyright movies off the Internet without paying for them, the study found. (Click on "movie file sharing" to view a PDF version.)

As another comparison point, 59 percent of Americans are much more likely to believe that parking in a fire lane is a "very serious offense," the study noted.

"There is a Robin Hood effect--most people perceive celebrities and studios to be rich already and, as a result, don't think of movie downloading as a big deal," Kaan Yigit, Digital Life America study director, said in a statement.

Yigit advised "download-to-own" movie services to offer greater flexibility in use and selection, as well as low prices, to entice copyright violators to make the switch.

A number of companies are already following that strategy, NBC announced plans last year to offer select streaming prime-time TV episodes for free, as part of a promotion. And Apple last year announced plans to offer downloadable movies from its iTunes store for $12.99 and $14.99.

The survey was conducted from June through September 2006 by Digital Life America, a syndicated consumer trend study owned by Solutions Research Group. SRG funds its own syndicated research.