More than half of North Americans polled in a recent Tellwut online survey believe file sharing and downloading should be a legal past time. 53% of voters shared this opinion with 28% disagreeing and 19% unsure. While the act of file sharing in itself isn’t illegal, it becomes illegal when users start sharing copyrighted media, such as music, movies and television shows with others on the internet who do not pay for these files.
Proponents of legal file sharing point to libraries as a comparison to file sharing. Both offer a service (borrowing a copy of something) free of charge. They also state that artists are already making millions from other promotions and concerts. Those against file sharing say it loses income and jobs for people in the entertainment industry and inflates the supply of files. They believe file sharing is equivalent to stealing a physical copy of the media from a store.
Opinions about legal file sharing contrast sharply in different parts of the world. In China, where 99% of music is pirated, Google provides a service to download free music legally. Google then shares its advertising revenues with music companies like Sony and Warner. The music industry takes a different approach in the United States where companies often take legal action against people who have downloaded free music, charging 35,000 people since 2003.
Among opinions on the legality of file sharing, the survey also discovered that 60% of voters had downloaded music for free from the internet in the past, with 36% of voters using torrents to do so.