NEW YORK (AP) â€” If you've downloaded music for free on the computer, a new study indicates you have plenty of company.
An estimated 13 million Americans have done it, and the practice is by no means confined to college students, the Pew Internet Project reported Thursday from the results of a survey. Fewer than 2 million people have paid to download music files.
``Millions of Americans have joined the online music revolution in recent months because it's simple, it's free and so far, nobody's stopping them,'' said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet Project, which researches the Internet's effect on society with funding by the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Freeloading is ``a huge threat to the music industry now and it is a harbinger of the trouble the Internet will pose to other entertainment forms like the movies,'' said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet Project.
The recording industry, and bands like Metallica, are trying to halt the trading of music online, much of it done with the aid of Napster, a company that lets users search for audio files. Record companies see it as stealing their work.
Pew's findings are disturbing and ``of no surprise to us,'' said Amy Weiss, spokeswoman for the Recording Industry Association of America.
Approximately 14 percent of all Internet users have downloaded music for free, Pew said. Nearly half of the freeloaders are between 18 and 29, but 42 percent are between 30 and 49, according to the survey.
``These are the office workers who are rocking out at their desks to Steely Dan or whatever,'' said Susannah Fox, Pew research director.
Only 2 percent of Internet users have downloaded music for free that they own in another form, on a compact disc or cassette. Some observers have felt that downloads would give listeners a taste of music they would later buy, but Pew's numbers indicate that few people are doing this.
Pew's survey of 2,503 adult Americans, including 1,345 Internet users, was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates on the telephone in April.
Freeloading is ``a huge threat to the music industry now and it is a harbinger of the trouble the Internet will pose to other entertainment forms like the movies,'' Rainie said.
On the Net: Pew Internet Project: http://www.pewinternet.org
Recording Industry Association of America: http://www.riaa.org