June 8, 2000

Pew Internet Project Survey Shows 13 Million Music “Freeloaders” on the Internet; 1 Billion Free Music Files among Napster Users

WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 8, 2000)–Some 13 million Americans have downloaded free music files on the Internet that they do not own in other forms such as CDs or cassette tapes, according to a new report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project. We call these Internet users “freeloaders” because they are getting new songs without paying for them. Only 2% of online Americans – fewer than 2 million people – say they have paid for the music they have downloaded.

The findings are based on a phone survey of 1,345 Internet users during April and they represent the first figures based on independent research about the universe of those age 18 and over who have downloaded music on the Internet. These results will likely become a part of the ongoing legal and legislative debates about the extensive practice of sharing copyrighted material over the Internet.

“Finding your favorite song online has become as easy as checking the weather or the latest sports scores,” said Lee Rainie, Director of the Pew Internet Project. “Millions of Americans have joined the online music revolution in recent months because it”s simple, it”s free, and so far, nobody”s stopping them. In a more profound sense, the rise of Napster and other song-sharing technologies marks a return to the many-to-many, networked character of the Internet. It”s a huge threat to the music industry now and it is a harbinger of the trouble the Internet will pose to other entertainment forms like the movies.”

The Pew Internet Project”s analysis of activity on Napster suggests there could be as many as 1 billion music files available for free on Napster users” computers.

The Pew Internet Project”s survey found that freeloading is particularly popular with students, those who have a good deal of experience on the Internet, and younger white males.

From new questions in the April installment of its ongoing tracking poll, the Pew Internet Project has found that 38 percent of all Internet users (about 35 million Americans) have enjoyed some form of music online, either by downloading files or listening to files streamed from online services or radio stations. More than one in five Internet users (21%) have downloaded music files. They break down this way:

  • 14% of Internet users, or about 13 million Americans have downloaded music they don”t own and got it for free. These are the freeloaders.
  • 2% of Internet users have paid to download new music.
  • 2% of Internet users have downloaded music they already own and did not pay for it.
  • 1% paid to download music that they already owned, but which most likely was not in a computer-compatible form.
  • 2% of Internet users have downloaded music but declined to answer other questions about what they did and why they did itA copy of the full report is available at the Pew Internet Project”s web site at http://www.pewinternet.org/reports/toc.asp?Report=16.

    For more information about the Pew Internet & American Life Project, click on http://www.pewinternet.org/

    The Pew Internet Project is an independent research center that explores the social impact of the Internet – that is, its effect on families, communities, education, health care, politics and civic life, and the work place. The Project is an initiative of the Pew Research Center, a project of the Tides Center, and fully funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

    Contact: Lee Rainie, 202.557.3463, lrainie@pewinternet.org or Susannah Fox, 202. 557.3462, sfox@pewinternet.org