S’pore may introduce 3-strikes law against illegal downloaders

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POLICE & THIEF
S’pore may introduce 3-strikes law against illegal downloaders
54% of those under 25 say nothing wrong with illegal downloads
IN THE real world, almost all of the 100 Singaporeans polled by The New Paper believe that stealing goodies from a store is wrong.
By Lim Say Heng
26 August 2009

IN THE real world, almost all of the 100 Singaporeans polled by The New Paper believe that stealing goodies from a store is wrong.

But they feel it’s okay to illegally download copyrighted material from the Internet. In another survey of 1,011 Singaporeans done by the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (Ipos), released this April, about 44per cent of Singaporeans think that illegal downloads of copyrighted material is not considered theft.

The thieving streak is clear, as 80 per cent of those polled in the Ipos survey acknowledged that such an act is illegal.

A poll done last week by The New Paper also laid bare this streak. Among those under 25, up to 54 per cent think that there is nothing wrong with illegal downloads.

Overall, 40 per cent felt the same way.

Excuses, excuses

The authorities here are now studying a new ‘three strikes’ law to curb illegal downloads.

Such a law, which has been implemented in South Korea, is being studied by Ipos.

Illegal downloaders will be warned thrice before their accounts are terminated by their Internet service providers.

But is punishment the only answer? Or is it more important to change the mentality of Singaporeans towards illegal downloads?

‘It is wrong because it is illegal,’ said Ms Gwen Ng, a 23-year-old communications executive.

‘But parting with money (for copyrighted material) is a physical act, while the legal and ethical implications of illegal downloads are abstract matters,’ she added.

‘So people take the easy way out and download, hoping that they don’t get caught.’

Those polled also pointed to easy access to copyrighted material as motivation for illegal downloads.

Also, some Singaporeans feel that it is perfectly legitimate to download illegal copies of songs or movies to sample the quality before deciding whether or not to buy original copies.

Said Mr James Teh, 26, an administrative assistant: ‘The concept of illegal downloads is like borrowing a disc from your friends. As long as there is no profit, what’s the difference?’

Others offered no excuses.

As Nurulhuda Mohd Noh, 19, a third-year polytechnic student, said: ‘It is free and no one really cares, just as long as you don’t get caught.’

Changing attitudes

It would be a big challenge changing this perception among Singaporeans, especially those who are in the 16-24 age range, said Professor Ang Peng Hwa of Nanyang Technological University’s Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information.

He said: ‘Most of the people in this age group would still be in school. They will not fully grasp how piracy will affect their livelihood if they are caught, since their income comes mostly from their parents.’

Peer influence also plays a part, he said.

However, he feels that campaigns run by organisations such as the Honour Intellectual Property Alliance have ‘some effect’ in changing attitudes.

‘People are definitely more aware about the issue now and there is a bit of stigma attached to illegal downloading now. But such education is highly expensive as it is difficult to change people’s attitudes.’

Additional reporting by Nurul Asyikin Mohd Nasir, newsroom intern

Heck, it’s OK to steal

Is it wrong to illegally download music, movies and TV shows?

NO: 54% of youngsters (aged 16 to 24)

NO: 26% of older adults

NO: 40% of total

Is it wrong to buy pirated CDs, VCDs and DVDs?

NO: 38% of youngsters

NO: 14% of older adults

NO: 26% of total

By Lim Say Heng, Juliana June Rasul and newsroom interns Nurul Asyikin Mohd Nasir, Ervina Mohamed Jamil and Hoe Pei Shan

# Street poll of 100 S’poreans conducted by The New Paper; half aged 16 to 24, half aged 25 and over

PIRACY IN NUMBERS

$3.3b

Amount the major US motion picture studios lost globally to Internet piracy in 2005

4b

Number of illegally downloaded music files worldwide last year (95 per cent of all downloaded tracks).

88%

Household broadband penetration rate in Singapore.

>1m

S’pore households using either a cable modem or DSL connection to connect to the Internet

# Sources: GfK, AC Nielsen, Strategy Analytics, Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore, Motion Picture Association, International Federation of the Phonographic Industry

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