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

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

Just over half (54 per cent) of those questioned believed that "downloading music off 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.

Amongst 18 to 24 year olds 70 per cent believed that there was no difference, 66 of 25 to 29 year olds agreed with the statement; and only 36 per cent of those 65 and older agreed.

According to the research company, the American public doesn't recognize the financial impact of downloading on musicians and recording companies. While two thirds of respondents (64 per cent) 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 potential solution to the problem: 70 per cent 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.