A survey published by market research firm Harris Interactive has found that while three quarters of adult Americans agree that "downloading and then selling music is piracy and should be prohibited", the same number of respondents also think that "downloading for personal use is an innocent act and should not be prohibited".

A similar percentage of teenagers in the US feel that downloading music files without paying (74 percent) and letting others download files from them (78 percent) should be legal.

Just over half (54 percent) of those questioned believed that "downloading music from the internet is no different from buying a used CD or recording music borrowed from a friend." However, when the age of the respondent is taken into consideration there is a notable difference.

Among 18- to 24-year-olds, 70 percent believed that there was no difference, 66 percent of 25- to 29-year-olds agreed with the statement; and only 36 percent of those 65 and over agreed.

According to the research company, the American public doesn't recognise the financial impact of downloading on musicians and recording companies. While two thirds of respondents (64 percent) agree that musicians and recording companies should get the full financial benefit of their work, the music industry views downloading as an issue of property rights.

There may be a solution to the problem: 70 percent of the 2,306 adult Americans interviewed online between September 16 and 23 believe that if CD prices were lower there would be less downloading of music on the internet.