What do “elite upcoming lawyers from around the world” really think about file-sharing and copyright? A new study based on a survey of international LL.M. (Masters of Law) students at Harvard University has been trying to find out.

“We expected lawyers to take highly conservative ethical positions on the issue of online copyright infringement,” wrote the study’s authors. “This hypothesis is strongly rejected by our data. We find that digital file sharing ranks relatively high in terms of ethical acceptability among our population of lawyers – with the only notable exception being infringing copyright with a commercial purpose. Moving away from the previous focus on laymen and undergraduate students, it therefore appears that the lawyers themselves perceive file sharing practices as ethically acceptable, as long as individuals do not derive monetary benefits from them.” The caveat, which to be fair is made clear in the study too: “Only 37% of our respondents rated their expertise in copyright law as greater of equal to 3, out of a 5 points scale. Therefore, while our all of our respondents can be described as highly qualified lawyers, not all of them are copyright experts.”

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