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Ofcom Claims 16 Percent of UK Internet Users Make Illegal Downloads

Thursday, Mar 7th, 2013 (1:28 pm) - Score 3,312

The communications regulator, Ofcom, has today released a new study into online copyright infringement (internet piracy), which estimates that 16% of UK internet users aged 12+ have consumed at least one item of online content illegally between August-October 2012 and 5% “exclusively consumed illegal content“.

Ofcom, as part of the government’s Digital Economy Act 2010 (DEAct), is required to assess the level of use of the internet to infringe copyright. In particular the first warning letters are due to be sent to ISP customers in early 2014 (assuming cost concerns don’t delay them) and thus the regulator needs to know if their new Obligations Code is having any impact.

The new report, which was carried out by Kantar Media, is actually the second wave of a quarterly consumer research study (the first study was released in November 2012). Overall Ofcom claims that there are “very few significant differences” in the results of the second-wave report and those of the first wave (not surprising as the new rules have yet to be enforced).

The study, which surveyed 5,500 thousand people aged 12+ via the phone, online or face-to-face, estimated that 10% of internet users consumed at least some music track illegally over the three-month period, while 6% did so for films, 2% for video games or computer software and just 1% for e-books. Infringers were generally more likely to be male (58%) or male and under 35 (69%).

Overall Volumes of Illegal Content Consumed

Music Tracks – 297 Million
TV Programmes – 56 Million
Films – 44 Million
Video Games – 35 Million
Computer Software – 27 Million
e-Books – 8 Million

Some 35% of those who consumed any content illegally claimed to use P2P (Peer to Peer) file sharing services and 13% used Cyberlockers (online file storage and sharing websites like Rapidshare).

The most common reasons cited for infringing were because it’s free (50%), convenient (46%) and quick (43%). Close to a quarter (26%) of infringers said they do so to try content before buying (though there’s little evidence to show that related trying converts to additional buying).

Factors that infringers said would encourage them to stop included the availability of cheaper legal services (30%), if it was clearer what is legal and what isn’t (25%), and if everything they wanted was available legally (24%). All factors were mentioned by a higher proportion of those who consumed a mix of legal and illegal content than by those who consumed content exclusively illegally (10% of the latter said that nothing would encourage them to stop).

Regarding the threat of a letter from their ISP, some 18% of all infringers indicated that if their ISP sent them a letter saying they would suspend their internet access it would put them off, falling to 12% if their ISP sent them a letter saying they would restrict their internet access, and 11% if their ISP sent them a letter informing them their account had been used to infringe.

Finally 41% of all internet users aged 12+ claimed to be either ‘not particularly confident’ or ‘not at all’ confident about what is and isn’t legal online. Confidence was lower among females (46%).

Ofcom’s Online Copyright Infringement Tracker Wave 2 (PDF)

UPDATE 2:33pm

Sorry we initially uploaded the wrong/old version of this article and have since pasted in the new one.

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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