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Government Claims 7.8 Million UK Internet Users Make Illegal Downloads

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015 (12:54 pm) - Score 3,422

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.

Leave a Comment
6 Responses
  1. Avatar zenuser27 says:


    They want to be greedy and put the prices out of our reach. So most people feel they have no choice.

    I don’t do any of this but I can see why people do. And personally I think long may it continue

  2. Avatar Kirk says:

    The list of reasons to acquire content illegally is missing one vital entry. The entertainment industries are mind-bogglingly corrupt, and until they stop this crusade against the internet as a whole they’re never going to win.

    As a musician myself, I want absolutely nothing to do with them, and would rather see my entire catalogue of music shared on torrent sites.

  3. Avatar cyclope says:

    Whats with the terminology “Illegal” ? last time i looked copyright infringement was a civil offence not a criminal one,use of wording such as this just feeds those copy right trolls, with their speculative invoicing by dodgy law firms, anyone recall ACS Law ?
    About time government stopped pandering to the movie and music industries

    1. Avatar freeman says:

      You’re correct it is a civil matter the term “illegal” means a crime has not been committed the word “unlawful” means a crime has been committed, example when somebody is murdered or seriously wounded why do they use the terms “unlawfully killed, “unlawfully wounded” why do they never use illegally in that context? because it is a crime they usual unlawful, illegal means you have broken a statue or an act which are not law, just civil policies.

    2. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      Another way to explain. Illegal means “against or not authorized by law.” Unlawful means “contrary to, prohibited, or unauthorized by law…while necessarily not implying the element of criminality, it is broad enough to include it.” (Black’s Law Dictionary) So unlawful is a civil wrong rather than a “crime” against the state.

  4. Avatar Odium says:

    As a ~20 computer geek who has studied this sort of stuff at uni let me just say. The government are so utterly clueless, how are these ageing dinosaurs in Parliament trying to compete with my generation on these issues? They struggle to set up an iPhone and their IT skills end at a powerpoint and email, yet they dictate to us that encryption should be banned (completely impossible and unenforcable, as well as Orwellian). They force ISP’s to block The Pirate Bay – which takes a single click to get around. They should stop taking bribery money from the Entertainment industry, MPAA etc and realise the reason people pirate media is because these media companies are dinosaurs and have totally failed to compete with pirates. Why can’t I pay a small Netflix like subscription or small one off fee and watch the latest releases rather than go to the cinema?

    Netflix/iTunes/Steam etc have shown the way, don’t fight it, compete. Not everyone wants to shell out exorbitant prices for media. Same way that Twitch/Youtube/Netflix/TPB is killing TV, my generation have changed. But then again it’s easier to throw bribery er sorry lobby money at politicians who can then throw out insane sentences for stuff that should barely be an offence. Yes media should be paid for, but has anyone looked at the prices these ancient companies want? Look at how much money Steam has made by making games dirt cheap!

    These are the same people that stole money from the tax payer (expenses scandal), sent us into deeply illegal and unwanted wars and covered up child rape. Yet they are the one’s with the supposed moral high ground? Please, they should shut up, move aside and let my generation >35 be in control of everything digital and related to IT and infrastructure.

    For example – not giving BT billions to do what they should be doing regardless. Nationalised FTTH across every inch of the country, would pay for itself in no time and give us endless economic benfits for generations to come as well as reduce congestion as many more would be able to work from home. Instead they want a £50bn train set that will be sold off to the highest bidder after completion and offer little benefit. I’m not a socialist, just a realist. My generation want inward sensible investment, not vanity projects, welfare and war (thanks Labour).

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