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Just 2% of UK Internet Users Responsible for Most Online Piracy

Wednesday, Sep 11th, 2013 (2:47 pm) - Score 1,523

Ofcom has today published the results of a year-long study, which was conducted by Kantar Media, into how and why Internet users access music, films, TV shows, software, books and video games online (both legally and illegally). It found that 17% of Internet users infringed copyright online but only 2% were responsible for 74% all piracy by volume.

The UK telecoms regulator noted that the study, which was funded by the Government’s Intellectual Property Office (IPO), processed a total of 21,475 survey responses between May 2012 and May 2013. It found that only a small portion (2%) of Internet users were truly prolific copyright infringers and the rest represent “a long tail of casual, low level or infrequent infringers“.

The statistics also revealed that almost a quarter (22%) of all content consumed online during the year was pirated, which apparently equates to over 1.5 Billion files. As you’d expect this also differed by content type, with pirated films accounting for 35% of all films consumed online, pirated music holding at 22% and infringing TV programmes stood at just 18%.

But interestingly it’s the Internet pirates that end up spending the most money on legal content.

Ofcoms Statement

During an average three-month period, infringers tend to spend more than non-infringers on legal digital content (£26 vs. £16). A similar pattern, although less pronounced, is seen when we include wider spend on offline content-related purchases (£110 vs. £83). Furthermore, the top 10% and top 20% of infringers tend to spend the most, in contrast to the bottom 80%, whose lower spend is more in keeping with non-infringers. But this hides significant variation between content types. For example, among film, software and video game consumers, non-infringers reported a higher average quarterly total spend than infringers.

Infringers were generally skewed towards being male, 16-34, and C2DE compared to non-infringers. Music, film and TV programme infringers were also more likely to be unemployed. These trends were amplified among the top 10% and top 20% infringers. The bottom 80% infringers were typically older, and, for some content types, more likely to be female, than high-volume infringers.

As usual the most commonly given reasons for Internet Piracy were because “it’s free”, “it’s easy/convenient” and “it’s quick”. But the highest volume infringers were more likely to say that they already spend enough on content (19% for top 10% of infringers vs. 7% among the bottom 80%); that legal content is too expensive (38% vs. 13%), that they didn’t want to wait for content to become available on legal services (19% vs. 8%); and that the industry makes too much money (19% vs. 8%).

The study also looked at the attitude of Internet Pirates to some of the measures proposed by the Digital Economy Act (DEAct), which from late 2015 could begin by sending Notification Letters to broadband customers whom are suspected of involvement with online copyright infringement. Repeat infringers might then face account suspension, service speed restrictions or possible court action by Rights Holders.

Interestingly the top 10% of pirates were more likely than the bottom 80% to claim they would stop if they thought they might be sued (25% vs. 17%); if they received a letter from their ISP informing them that their account had been used to infringe (19% vs. 11%); and if there were articles in the media about people being caught (13% vs. 7%).

No doubt Rights Holders will like the idea that the proposed enforcement measures could end up being more effective against heavier infringers. On the other hand new research conducted by Dr Rebecca Giblin from Monash University’s Faculty of Law recently suggested that measures like those proposed through the DEAct had already proven to be a waste of time and money (here).

High volume infringers analysis report (PDF)

Online Copyright Infringement Tracker Wave 4 (PDF)

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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