Wednesday, January 25, 2012

SOPA and Self-Reported Data

This recent article from Bloomberg View discusses the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). It also mentions the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA). The article is written by Joe Karaganis, program director for Media and Democracy at the Social Science Research Council. His team at The American Assembly, a public-policy institute based at Columbia University, commissioned a random phone survey of 2,303 Americans to find out what they think about the plans for the aforementioned legislation.
Karaganis reports: "We learned that most people want to obey the law. But when values conflict, strong majorities rank privacy, free speech, fear of government intrusion, and yes, sharing among family and friends ahead of copyright protection. In other words, our results show an emerging ordering of values online...

Among the respondents, 46 percent said they had, at some point, bought, copied or downloaded unauthorized music or video. This figure reaches 70 percent among people age 18 to 29. But hard-core piracy is rare: Less than 2 percent had acquired most or all of a large collection that way....

There are also a lot of buts. Support drops to 40 percent if the government does the blocking. It falls to 36 percent if legal content is accidentally blocked, and declines to a mere 26 percent if surveillance of Internet use is required. There is general agreement that SOPA/PIPA would do all three
As Karaganis says, "the results suggest that practices and attitudes are adjusting to a world in which distribution is cheap, copying is easy and sharing is possible -- but the legal means for doing all of this have lagged. Users are also adjusting to a world in which there is vastly more media, not less, competing for limited attention and money." However, anyone who is familiar with self-reported data will know that social desirability bias is a big factor to consider in the interpretation of the results outlined above.

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