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Poll: Americans Not With Internet Lobby on SOPA/PIPA

A recent poll from JZ Analytics on how Americans view the problem of online piracy and online counterfeit goods – the problem that anti-piracy legislation (SOPA/PIPA) attempted to address -- indicates that Americans’ views overall are different than the several million subset of Americans that signed Google’s and other’s online petitions opposing the anti-piracy legislation as “censorship” that would “break the Internet.” The poll also indicates Americans have concerns with Google’s record and stance on piracy.

The JZ Analytics online survey of 1,001 Americans was conducted December 27-28, 2011 and has a margin of error of +/-3.2%.

I. Summary of Poll Results:

A. General Questions

Is online piracy a problem? 82.1% of Americans believe online piracy and the online sale of counterfeit drugs are a problem; only 3.3% of Americans did not see it as a problem at all.

Should anti-piracy laws be strengthened? 79.7% of Americans believe it is important for our country to strengthen the laws against online piracy and the sale of counterfeit drugs; only 3.9% of Americans believe it is not important at all to strengthen anti-piracy laws.

Ever used pirated material? 80.1% of Americans have never downloaded pirated music or videos without paying for it; only 13.7% have. Even among the Internet Generation of 18-29 year old Americans, a majority (50.3%) have never downloaded pirated material without paying for it.

Ever ordered drugs without a prescription online? 95.9% of Americans have never ordered a prescription online without having a prescription, while only 2.8% of Americans have.

B. Google-Related Piracy Questions:

Responsibility of search engines that profit from piracy? 66.5% of Americans agreed with the statement: “I would think less of that company because it is profiting from illegal and potentially dangerous activities.” Only 15.3% of Americans agreed with the statement: “I would not think less of the company because it is ultimately up to the Internet user to decide what is right and wrong.”

Do search engines have responsibility to disgorge illegal profits? 54.7% of Americans believe search engines that profit from selling ads promoting illegal activities should give that money away; only 10.1% of Americans believe they should keep the money because it is “not their fault they made money from these websites.”

Was Google’s $500m penalty for knowingly promoting illegal drug imports a one-time mistake? 63.3% of Americans believe: “This is probably a common problem and Google happened to get caught this time;” whereas only 12.2% of Americans believe: “this is probably an isolated issue and a one-time mistake by Google.”

Validity of Google’s “Don’t be evil” credo? 64.6% of Americans believe that Google profiting from selling ads to websites that sell counterfeit drugs and illegal pirated material violates Google’s “Don’t be evil” credo, whereas only 11.8% of Americans believe it is consistent with Google’s “Don’t be evil” credo.

II. Analysis of Poll Findings

The big takeaways from this enlightening survey are:

First, there is a big political disconnect between the fact that ~80% of Americans believe online piracy and counterfeit drugs is a problem worthy of stronger laws, while the Internet lobby convinced millions of Americans to oppose a bipartisan proposed solution to this piracy problem – by characterizing the proposed legislation as “censorship” and “breaking the Internet.”

Second, Google’ strong motives and efforts to kill SOPA/PIPA, because it would have prohibited search engines from engaging in highly-profitable advertising for well-known pirate sites, appears to run counter to the 5 to 1 views of Americans that: search engines should not be profiting off selling ads to websites engaged in illegal activities; and if they are found to have done so, they should disgorge those ill-gotten profits.

Third, in the first public poll on the reputation effect of Google’s 2011 settlement with the DOJ (over criminal charges of Google aiding and abetting illegal prescription drug imports into the U.S. and having to pay a $500m penalty), Americans strongly believe (5 to 1) that this was not a one-time Google mistake but a common Google problem, and that facilitating piracy clearly violates Google’s public representations that it is ethical given its “Don’t be Evil” credo.