A survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers has found that a majority of adults are opposed to suing people who illegally download music from the Internet. Since September 2003, the RIAA has filed suit against m

LOS ANGELES -- A survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers has found that a majority of adults are opposed to suing people who illegally download music from the Internet.

Since September 2003, the RIAA has filed suit against more than 3,400 people the trade group identified as illegal downloaders. Nearly 500 new actions were filed in June. At least 600 of the suits have been settled; none of the cases has gone to trial.

The new poll, conducted by the legal Web site Findlaw.com found that 56% of the respondents opposed the lawsuits, 37% supported legal action against downloaders, and 7% had no opinion.

Young adults were highly opposed to the suits: 66% of 18- to 34-year-olds polled were against taking the issue to court.

But upper-demo consumers also took a dim view of the action: 59% of those aged 35-54 and 41% of those 55 and older also took a dim view of the suits.

Law professors interviewed by FindLaw saw nothing wrong with taking illegal downloaders to court.

Sharon Sandeen, professor of intellectual-property law at the Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul, Minn., told FindLaw, "(T)he individuals who complain about the lawsuits should ask themselves, 'Would I rather live in a world with freely distributed but less music, or pay for the music I enjoy so that there will be more of it?' "

Sandeen added, "Public opposition to the lawsuits may be due, in part, to what some people consider hard-handed tactics by the RIAA."

Marci Hamilton, professor at Yeshiva University's Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York, said, "In many ways, downloading is like shoplifting: an exciting and slightly risky diversion, a seemingly petty vice in an otherwise law-abiding life. But like shoplifting, illegal music downloading violates the law and exacts a cost on society."

The national survey used a representative sample of 1,000 adults nationwide, with a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points, and was conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs.