The National Research Institute of Legal Policy of Finland (Optula) has just come out with the results of its large survey charting various illegal or forbidden activities among the Finnish 9th grade (15 year old) schoolchildren. This is already the sixth survey of its kind but interestingly the researchers included this year also unauthorized downloading among the 'forbidden' activities charted. The results show that net piracy is highly popular in this age group, topping the chart of illegal or forbidden activities. 29% of the study target group practiced unauthorized downloading daily, 69% had done it at least once during the previous year, and 74% had done it at least once in their lifetime. Two out of three persons reported having at least 100 illegally downloaded files on their computers. Two thirds of the downloaded content was music while movies was the next most popular content type.
These objectively credible results contrast sharply the propaganda material previously distributed by the Finnish copyright lobby organization Lyhty. Citing cherry picked details from its annual Tekijänoikeusbarometri (Copyright Barometer) study - the details and result data of which have never been published for scientific scrutiny - Lyhty has claimed that the new Finnish copyright law - which is an implementation of the IPRED1 sanction dircetive - has been effective in reducing net piracy in Finland. This claim has been further distributed internationally by IFPI lobbyists. However, Optula's fresh study shows that this claim is not true at all, at least among the younger generation. Net piracy is highly popular among the young Finns, and there are no signs of the new stricter copyright law managing to reduce it.
Venla Salmi, an Optula researcher interviewed by the main Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, estimates the ease of net piracy and the widespread perception of copying being a different thing from stealing to be main factors behind the popularity of net piracy. She also mentions the low risk of getting caught as one of the possible explanations.
Piraattiliitto can easily agree with the researcher's view. A modern Finnish 15-year old schoolkid is technically savvy and already lives in the new world where networked communications and free cultural exchange on p2p networks are everyday things. He is also enlightened enough to understand that net piracy is 'illegal' only because the big music corporations together with Hollywood and various copyright organizations have lobbied the legislators to make it illegal. Now that also Finland has its own Pirate Party, it is increasingly clear to the young that the legal status of net piracy in Finland is above all a political choice. Either we criminalize an entire youth generation for what they perceive as a positive phenomenon of sharing culture on Internet or we accept the new technical and social reality - the fact that filesharing is here to stay - and consequently force the entertainment industry to adapt its business models into this new reality.