In theory all types of property (physical or intellectual) should receive equal levels of protection within the legal system. Why should stealing a car be different from stealing a painting or a piece of music or a line of code ?
The old adage that possession is nine tenths of the law may hold a clue as to why people seem to view them differently - perhaps because ownership is generally much clearer with physical property. In addition concepts such as fair use do not confuse matters.
In any event regardless of my opinions on the matters as part of KLipcorp's survey into IP issues we asked a couple of questions in this area and the responses were pretty stark.
57% of people thought that intellectual property should not be protected as much as physical property.
However the answers to the next question were a bit of a shocker for those who subscribe to the view that customer confusion has a large part to play in the large volumes of unlicensed content consumed online. It may be that the sample was not representative - but 100% of people surveyed said they would still use pirate sites even if they 100% knew they were unlicensed / illegal.
If this response is valid it seems that only direct action against pirate sites will be effective.