One in 2 here OK with illegal file-sharing

A survey has found that one in two people think it is not a crime to download files from unauthorised sources or share files illegally.

Yet nearly 82 per cent of the 1,002 respondents in the biennial survey by the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (Ipos) said it was important to protect intellectual property (IP) rights.

Three in five also saw buying counterfeit products as a form of theft.

Despite their support for content creators, respondents were more cavalier when it came to obtaining content from dubious sources.

The survey was done last November and results were released yesterday. It found that 55 per cent saw unauthorised downloading as theft, down from 78 per cent in a similar survey done in 2010.

Consumers said they were unwilling to pay for content and found it more convenient to pirate content online.

"Downloaders may be aware that they are doing something wrong, but they might justify it as something not as serious as outright theft," said Koh Chia Ling, intellectual property lawyer at ATMD Bird & Bird.

The spotlight was cast on illegal downloading two weeks ago, when more than 500 people who had allegedly downloaded Oscar-winning film Dallas Buyers Club were served letters asking for compensation.

Consumers also pointed to the lack of available legal methods of obtaining digital content, such as streaming services like Netflix or HBO Now.

"There aren't enough ways to get TV shows on demand in a legal way," said banker Jeremy Ho, 25. "I'm more than willing to pay for something like Netflix, but it's not available here."

Said Mr Koh: "There will always be a small group of hardcore downloaders who want to download unauthorised material for free.

"But if there is content available legitimately, there will also be a large segment of people who will pay for cheap and easily available content."

Ipos said it will continue to build awareness of IP in Singapore through outreach programmes in primary schools and by sharing information on social media channels to educate consumers.

Said Ipos chairman Stanley Lai: "Education remains our top priority, and we must continue to give due recognition and respect to IP creators and their original works."

The survey findings were released yesterday at an appreciation event for World IP Day on Sunday.

At the event, Ipos also announced the launch of a free weekly legal clinic for clients to get preliminary legal advice on matters relating to IP rights and copyright infringement.

These clinics will benefit small companies and individuals who may not be equipped to handle such IP disputes, such as those with no access to lawyers or lack knowledge on such matters.

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