SCMP Saturday, July 29, 2000

Most pupils have used pirated software, survey finds


More than 80 per cent of young people have used pirated software or downloaded music from the Internet without the owners' consent, a survey has found.

Many also considered such acts acceptable, researchers found, sparking calls from youth workers for more education on information technology ethics.

Of the 1,089 senior secondary school pupils who took part in the Boys' and Girls' Clubs Association of Hong Kong poll, 82.1 per cent admitted to acts of copyright theft and infringement.

The use of pirated software was the most common offence, committed by 79 per cent of youngsters. This was followed by use of expired shareware - software that can be universally used for a limited period.

Almost half - 47.8 per cent - felt there was nothing wrong in making their favourite songs available on the Internet for other people to download, although only 15 per cent had done so.

In questions about the use of ICQ chat rooms, 36.6 per cent of students said they disguised their identities in some way when chatting on line. Twenty-eight per cent said they used false names and personal details.

The survey also found gender was an important factor affecting young people's level of tolerance for illegal acts on the Internet, with boys more inclined to tolerate them than girls.

Parents' readiness to surf the net with their children and the amount of time spent on the activity each week also played a part in determining how inclined youngsters were to tolerate illegal activities on the Internet, the survey discovered.

Survey co-organiser Fu Suk-yin said many youngsters knew it was wrong to infringe other people's copyright but went ahead with the actions for a very simple reason - cost.

"The price of licensed software or the cost of its use may prove to be too expensive for them to bear," she said. "Therefore, in order to encourage the youngsters to use the real thing again, a rethink in policy is required. Perhaps cheap copies of licensed software could be offered."

At the same time, more should be done to strengthen young people's ethics through both academic and civic education, said Ms Fu.

The survey also confirmed that visiting Web sites - at 87 per cent - was the most common activity young people engaged in on the Internet. ICQ chat rooms and e-mail activity were second and third respectively.

More than 60 per cent believed IT knowledge picked up from school could help them with their studies and employment.