A survey released today by PC Data Online indicates that 60 percent of Napster fans would continue to download music even if the practice is ruled illegal. The study jibes with several other polls indicating that no amount of legal maneuvering will completely eliminate the "freeloading" of music from the Internet.
The findings come as a federal judge issued an injunction today ordering Napster to halt its music file-sharing service. The service is the most widely known and frequently used means of downloading songs over the Internet for free, but other sites and technologies are rapidly gaining favor among music aficionados.
The survey indicated "strong support for the concept of sharing music over the Internet," said Sean Wargo, Internet analyst for PC Data.
"The recording industry is behind the times in terms of where the technology is," he said. "Trying to stop Napster is like trying to contain a wild beast. The technology is already there, it's growing, and consumers will continue to align themselves with it."
Even though 57 percent of respondents regarded the recording industry's defense of its intellectual property rights as admirable, they said they thought it was unrealistic to think that the industry can control the free exchange of music. Eleven percent disagreed, and 32 percent had no position.
The survey sample was selected from among PC Data's panel of more than 120,000 home Web users. The sample consisted of 1,560 people weighted by age, gender and income to represent the U.S. home Internet population. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent.
The survey also showed that the pace of downloading files from the Internet is likely to accelerate. Of people surveyed, 32 percent said they plan to increase the number of free digital music files they download in the next year, while nearly 40 percent plan to download the same amount. Twenty-eight percent said they plan to download less digital music.
But the survey indicated that people are less willing to pay for music over the Internet, a troubling sign for the recording industry. While about 42 percent said they would download the same amount of music for a fee, nearly 51 percent would download less, and only 7 percent would download more.
"The train has already left the station on this one," Wargo said. The involved parties "should figure out how to make this service work for everyone."