Microsoft Corp. announced the results of a new survey that found teenagers between seventh and 10th grades are less likely to illegally download content from the Internet when they know the laws for downloading and sharing content online.

About half of those teens, however, said they were not familiar with these laws, and only 11 percent of them clearly understood the current rules for downloading images, literature, music, movies and software. Teens who were familiar with downloading rules credited their parents, TV or stories in magazines and newspapers, and Web sites — more so than their schools — as resources for information about illegal downloading.
“Widespread access to the Internet has amplified the issue of intellectual property rights among children and teens,” said Sherri Erickson, global manager, Genuine Software Initiative for Microsoft. “This survey provides more insight into the disparity between IP awareness and young people today and highlights the opportunity for schools to help prepare their students to be good online citizens.”

Microsoft has enlisted Topics Education, a developer of custom curricula, to help launch the pilot of a broad-based curriculum for middle school and high school educators titled “Intellectual Property Rights Education.” The curriculum is focused on preparing students for the digital age, helping them understand in a meaningful way how intellectual property rights affect their lives and sparking discussion to clarify the “gray areas” in protected and shared content. To complement the curriculum and enhance the learning experience, Microsoft is also launching an interactive Web site,, where kids can develop their own intellectual property and assign usage rights by mixing music online to create a custom riff that they can download as a ringtone.

Following are additional key findings from the survey:

— A lack of familiarity with the rules and guidelines for downloading
from the Internet contributes to teen opinions that punishment is

— Almost half of the teenagers surveyed (49 percent) said they are not
familiar with the rules and guidelines for downloading images,
literature, music, movies and software from the Internet. Only one
in 10 (11 percent) said they understood the rules “very well.”

— Among teenagers who said they were familiar with the laws, more than
eight in 10 (82 percent) said illegal downloaders should be
punished. In contrast, slightly more than half (57 percent) of those
unfamiliar with the laws said violators should be punished.

— In general, teenagers regard illegal downloading over the Internet as
less offensive than other forms of stealing.

— Less than half of the teens surveyed (48 percent) indicated
punishment was appropriate for illegal downloading, while 90 percent
indicated punishment was appropriate for stealing a bike.

— Teens rely on parents for rules on downloading.

— Teens report that their parents are their main source of information
about what they can and cannot do online. Reinforcing the role of
parents is the finding that some of the strongest deterrents to
stealing and illegally sharing content are the prospective

— Among teens who download or share content online, boys are more
likely than girls to say that they would not continue after being
told the rules* to download or share content over the Internet
without paying for it or gaining the owner’s permission (76 percent
vs. 68 percent respectively).

— Teens are challenged by peer pressure and their wallets.

— Among teens, peer pressure and cost also have a strong influence on
attitudes toward illegal downloading.

Meeting the Need for Education

“Intellectual Property Rights Education” is geared toward eighth-, ninth- and 10th-grade educators for field testing through March 2008. Following the field test the program will be assessed for rollout later in the year. Sponsored and made available to teachers for free by Microsoft, the curriculum will be a combination of content-rich Web resources targeting middle school and high school students and case-study-driven, experiential learning lesson plans for various subject areas. Accompanying the curriculum is an interactive public Web site, MyBytes, which provides a venue where students can create custom ringtones and share their own content, offer their opinions and learn more about intellectual property rights regardless of their participation in the curriculum. Further information about MyBytes is available at Educators are encouraged to visit Microsoft’s curriculum Web site at to participate in the field test to teach the curriculum or to evaluate the program and provide feedback. The field test program will end March 28, 2008.