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UK ISP Warning Letters Becoming Less of a Deterrent for Internet Piracy

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013 (1:47 pm) - Score 3,913

The government’s plan to discourage online copyright infringement in the UK by forcing broadband ISPs to issue warning Notification Letters to customers whom are suspected of engaging in internet piracy, a process that is due to get underway in H1-2014, could be less effective than hoped.

According to Ofcom’s third wave (W3) of quarterly consumer research (Nov 2012 – Jan 2013), which was carried out by Kantar Media, only 16% of all infringers indicated that they would be discouraged by ISPs sending letters that threated to “suspend my internet access” (down from 18% in the Aug – Oct 2012 W2 study). Overall 18% of UK internet users aged 12+ consumed at least one item of online content illegally over the period (up from 16% in W2).

The top three factors that infringers said would encourage them to stop included the availability of cheaper legal services (28% – down from 30% in W2), if it was clearer what is/is not legal (24% – down from 25% in W2) and if everything they wanted was available legally (22% – down from 24% in W2). Just 16% of those whom exclusively consumed “illegal” content said that nothing would encourage them to stop (up from 10% in W2).

Meanwhile 41% of all internet users aged 12+ claimed to be either “not particularly confident” or “not at all” confident about what is and is not legal online, which shows that there’s still plenty of room for education to play a role.

illegal vs legal uk internet content

The survey also showed that for music, films and TV programmes, those who consumed a mix of legal and illegal content “claimed to spend more on that particular content type over the three-month period than those who consumed either 100% legally or 100% illegally“. The most commonly cited reasons for infringing were because it is free (48% – down from 50% in W2), convenient (39% – down from 46% in W2) and quick (36% – down from 43% in W2).

As usual the most popular method of accessing “illegal” content was Peer-to-Peer (P2P) file sharing, which was used by 35% of infringers. Cyberlockers, which are online file storage and sharing websites, came a distant second on 12%. Both were practically unchanged from the previous W2 study.

Ofcom are required by the Digital Economy Act 2010 (DEAct) to assess the level of online piracy, which allows them to measure whether or not their new ISP Obligations Code is having any impact on the activity. The first warning letters were originally due to be sent to broadband customers in early 2014 but the on-going debate over costs has threatened to delay that (here).

Ofcoms Online Copyright Infringement Survey – Wave 3

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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