A new study conducted by the University of Portsmouth in the UK has found that the average person is liable for millions in fines under the fines imposed by current copyright laws.
The study, which surveyed a random sample of 6,000 people aged seven to 84, founds that on average, each person in the survey downloaded more than 2,900 pirated songs, along with 90 movies. The study also found some interesting differences between music and movie pirates, and their legal content buying habits.
Economists from the University of Portsmouth, Dr. Joe Cox and Professor Alan Collins, analysed the data-set from the survey of 6,000 people from Finland and found that those who were frequent movie pirates were more likely to pay for legal content than those who downloaded a large amount of pirated music. They were also more likely to finally wealthier than music pirates, more likely to be male, and did not fear getting caught as much as those who download a large amount of music.
Monetary savings and quality perceptions also have a strong influence on whether people chose to pirate or not, the study also found.
One interesting side note from the data obtained by this study is the potential damages that could result from the 2,900 pirated music files and 90 movie files that the "average" respondents claimed to have downloaded. Under current U.S. copyright law, pirates are liable for up to $150,000 for each work under statutory damages for "willful infringement". Using precedent set in the Joel Tenenbaum case, in which the college student was fined $675,000 for downloading 30 songs illegally, this means that the average person involved in the study could be liable for $67,275,000 in damages!
(Of course, this is not how these lawsuits work, as the plaintiff would only file the case based on a small sample of infringement, a small selective number of works that best illustrate the actions of the defendant and then use statutory damages as a short-cut to sum up total damages - Joel Tenenbaum will have downloaded far more than just 30 songs, for example).