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Study: Students unfazed by piracy

Many college students don't have a problem with downloading pirated software, a study shows. Much of the blame rests on educators who aren't discouraging it.

If attitudes on college campuses nationwide are any indicator, then software piracy in Kazaa and other file-swapping communities could get out of control, according to a new study.

Nearly two-thirds of college students surveyed said they would download pirated software, according to a study released Tuesday by the Business Software Alliance (BSA). Only a third of those students who have already downloaded commercial software have paid for it.

Much of the blame rests on university educators who aren't discouraging illegal behavior, according to the study, called "Internet Piracy on Campus." More than 40 percent of educators say it's OK to share or swap software to cut costs.

"Students aren't being told, 'Downloading unlicensed or illegal files is a mistake,'" Robert Holleyman, CEO of BSA, said in a statement.

"With P2P use on the rise, student and educator attitudes toward illegal downloading and file swapping, if ignored, have the potential to become a gateway for increased software piracy on thousands of college campuses," he added.

The study was released at a time when Net music piracy is taking center stage in the media and U.S. courts. The Recording Industry Association of America recently filed 261 lawsuits against individuals who allegedly traded songs in peer-to-peer communities such as Kazaa, charging them with copyright infringement potentially worth millions of dollars.

Members of BSA--Adobe Systems, Apple Computer, Macromedia, Microsoft, Symantec and others--are calling attention to their own fight so that it doesn't get overlooked. Cash-strapped students could be more apt to download programs, such as Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Office and Outlook, without paying for them in order to do their work. The BSA's fear is that if students' attitudes are left unchecked, they will turn into habits in the workplace.

Holleyman said that while peer-to-peer technology has improved, its misuse still raises concerns. "Education is ever more important to changing these behaviors," he said.

The study found that of the 69 percent of students who have downloaded music, only 8 percent have paid for it. Of the nearly one-quarter of respondents who say they have downloaded movies, only 4 percent paid for it. Despite the statistics, 93 percent of students endorse intellectual property rights and the concept of contributing to software development.

The study also found that educators aren't setting a good example or making university policies known. Only about a third of students said that professors actively discourage them from swapping software or installing software on multiple machines.

The survey is part of a wider initiative at BSA to study attitudes toward downloading, file sharing and copyright law within universities. The BSA is developing educational resources to help universities address the piracy problem on campus.

The research, conducted by Ipsos, was compiled through online interviews with 1,000 university and college students and through telephone interviews with 300 college and university faculty and administrators.