A large majority of the angel investors and venture capitalists who took part in a groundbreaking Booz & Company study say they will not put their money in digital content intermediaries (DCIs) if governments pass tough new rules allowing websites to be sued or fined for pirated digital content posted by users. (DCIs are the companies that provide search, hosting, and distribution services for digital content such as YouTube, Facebook, SoundCloud, eBay, and thousands of others.)

More than 200 prominent angel investors and venture capitalists were interviewed for this study, the first of its kind in the US. More than 70 percent of angel investors reported they would be deterred from investing if anti-piracy regulations against "user uploaded" websites were increased. More than 80 percent of the angel investors would prefer to invest in a risky, weak economy (with the current internet regulations) vs. a strong economy (but with the new, more stringent proposed regulations on copyright infringement). And if the legal framework for digital content was clarified, and penalties on copyright infringement were limited for content providers acting in good faith, the pool of angels interested in investing would increase by nearly 115 percent.

With the United States House Judiciary Committee currently considering the proposed "Stop Online Piracy Act," the issue of who owns digital content, and who should be punished if it is posted or used without permission is once again being heavily debated. Angel investors and venture capitalists currently invest more than $40 billion annually in early-stage companies. It has long been speculated that this type of investment would dry up if new rules were introduced, and the Booz & Company study appears to confirm this.

"The debate over digital content is a vast landscape peppered with many opinions and very little real data," says Matthew Le Merle, a partner at Booz & Company. "We decided to conduct this empirical study to shed light on one important issue. Would angel investors really take their money elsewhere if the regulatory landscape fundamentally changed with regard to copyright regulation and the internet? The answer was definitive."

Read the full study here.