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Government Claims 7.8 Million UK Internet Users Make Illegal Downloads

Wednesday, Jul 22nd, 2015 (12:54 pm) - Score 3,483

The Government has today published its fifth wave study into the extent of online copyright infringement by broadband ISP and mobile data consumers, which estimates that 18% of UK Internet users aged 12+ (7.8 million people) had consumed at least one item of “illegal” online content and 6% “exclusively consumed illegal content“.

The new report, which was funded by the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) and carried out by Kantar Media, is actually the “fifth wave” of a related consumer research study that first began in 2012 (here) as part of a requirement handed down by the Government’s troubled Digital Economy Act 2010 (DEAct).

Overall more than 4,500 people were surveyed for the report via various different forms of communication (phone, online etc.) and the news seems to suggest the consumption of both legal and “illegal” content (although we think unlawful might be a better word) seems to have increased. But the picture is mixed.

Overall Volumes of Illegal Content Consumed W5

Music Tracks – 343 million (319 million in W4)
TV Programmes – 135 million (98 million in W4)
Films – 79 million (81 million in W4)

The proportion of consumers who are accessing 100% illegal content has increased from 8% in the last study (W4) to 10% for the current wave (W5), which is mostly being driven by access to illegal content in the TV programmes category (from 11% in W4 to 14% for W5).

By comparison there has been a “significant decline” in illegal content access in the films category (from 21% in W4 to 16% for the current wave), although it’s worth remembering that the highest level of infringement comes via music content (26%).

2015 q2 legal and illegal internet content use

It’s also noted that over half (56%) of those who consumed any type of content during the past three months paid for at least some of it, which has held steady since the last report. Netflix use increased significantly among infringers from 13% in wave 4, to 21% for W5, whistle Spotify use remained stable among this group, at 14%. But the use of Apple’s online products (iTunes or App store) has declined from 26% (W4) to 19% (W5).

In addition, some 26% of those who consumed any content illegally claimed to use P2P File Sharing services (compared to 6% of those who only consumed legally) and this is the lowest level seen since the first wave in 2012 (it was 32% in W4).

Meanwhile the most commonly highlighted reasons for infringing were because it is free (49%), convenient (43%) and quick (37%).

2015 q2 illegal internet content motivations

As we know the big ISPs are already trying to get a grip on the problem of Internet piracy by blocking websites involved in copyright infringement (after a court order) and a new education campaign is also about to begin (here), which among other things will involve sending email warnings to customers that have been spotted taking part in such activity (these letters / alerts will not carry any threats). So how effective is this likely to be?

What would make infringers stop?

• The top three factors that infringers said would encourage them to stop included the availability of cheaper legal services (25%), if everything they wanted was available legally (21%), and if it was clearer what is legal and what is not (21%). 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. Only 14% of those who consumed illegal content exclusively stated that nothing would encourage them to stop.

• Fifteen per cent of infringers indicated that they would be put off ‘if my ISP sent me a letter saying they would suspend my internet access’, falling to 11% for ‘if my ISP sent me a letter informing me my account had been used to infringe’, and 10% for ‘if my ISP sent me a letter saying they would restrict my internet speed’.

• Responses to the threat of ISP letters were all at lower levels than they had been in previous waves; the suspension of internet service in particular has fallen by a small proportions wave-on-wave (from 22% in W1, 18% in W2, 16% in W3 and 14% in W4 to its current level of 15%).

The full report is available to download and dissect here.

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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