Twenty-five percent of Germans think that it is acceptable to use illegal copies of music, films or software according to a survey commissioned by BITKOM, the German Federal Association of Information Technology, Telecommunications and New Media.

Hamburg-based market research company Aris interviewed 1,000 Germans on a representative basis.

The survey showed that 66% thought that using illegal copies was a serious offense, while 63% said that people producing illegal copies should be punished by law.

"Most Germans have a pronounced sense of the significance of intellectual property," said BITKOM management board member Volker Smid in a statement. "However, the fact that one out of four sees no harm in using illegal copies shows that there is no true consensus in our society on the importance of protecting copyrights."

"In addition to criminal prosecution, attractively priced and secure paid offerings make an important contribution to overcoming piracy," said Smid. "The boom in the download market shows that there is potential for the legal use of cultural offerings and software."

For the first time, Germans spent around €250 million ($333.2 million) on dowloading content in 2009, around 18% more than in the previous year. The number of paid-for downloads is expected to increase to around 60 million by the end of the year, an increase of 24% over 2008, reported Smid.

Smid said that it was important for intellectual products to be financially attractive for investors and artists.

The figures on the download market are based on data for 2010 from GfK Panel Services in Nuremberg.