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Government – 6.7 Million UK Internet Users Downloaded Illegal Content

Wednesday, July 6th, 2016 (10:18 am) - Score 2,994
piracy uk illegal internet download

The Intellectual Property Office has published its sixth study into the extent of online copyright infringement by broadband ISP and mobile customers, which estimates that 15% of UK Internet users aged 12+ (6.7 million people) had consumed at least one item of “illegal” online content (down from 18% last year) and 5% “exclusively consumed illegal content” (down from 6%).

The research, which covered the period from March to May 2016 and surveyed around 5,000 people via various different forms of communication (phone, online etc.), noted that the levels of infringement varied significantly by content type. The highest levels of infringement for all Internet users were recorded for music (8%), TV programmes (7%) and films (6%).

Furthermore it’s noted that the proportion of all Internet users aged 12+ who consumed content “exclusively legally” has increased to 44% since last year (41%). In keeping with this the study states that the “small but significant drop in online copyright infringement” has coincided with a rise in legal streaming services (e.g. Spotify, YouTube, iPlayer, Amazon Prime, Netflix, NOW TV etc.).

Overall over half (52%) of Internet users consuming content online now use streaming services, while downloading content is becoming comparatively less popular (39%). Respondents who streamed content online cited convenience and cost as two of the main reasons for doing so. On the flip side use of Peer 2 Peer (P2P) file sharing, which is so often used for Internet piracy, continues to drop from 12% to 10% at the total level (includes legal use) and from 26% to 23% among infringers.

Interestingly the most commonly cited reasons for infringing were because it is free (49%), convenient (45%) and quick (42%). Speed and convenience have both shown increases in 2016, with the results from last year being as follows: free (49%), convenient (43%) and quick (37%).


The largest ISPs are already trying to get a grip on the problem of Internet piracy by blocking websites involved in copyright infringement (always after a court order) and the Government are also trying to support this with an education campaign.

Funnily enough we were supposed to have seen the introduction of a soft email warning system too (these alerts will not carry any threats), which would have targeted broadband ISP subscribers that are suspected of involvement with copyright infringement, but so far this hasn’t materialised. Not that it would do much to dent the abuse.

What would make infringers stop?

• The top factors that infringers said would encourage them to stop included making legal services cheaper (24%), if everything they wanted was available legally (20%), and if it was clearer what is legal and what is not (19%).

• 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. This has remained consistent with the level recorded in 2015.

• 11% of infringers indicated that they would be put off ‘if my ISP sent me a letter saying they would suspend my internet access’, 10% for ‘if my ISP sent me a letter informing me my account had been used to infringe’, and 9% for ‘if my ISP sent me a letter saying they would restrict my internet speed’.

• Responses to the threat of ISP letters suspending their accounts or restrict their internet speed have decreased again in 2016; the suspension of internet service in particular has fallen by a small proportions wave-on-wave (from 22% in the first wave, to 15% in 2015 and the current level of 11%).

The full report is available to download here.

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Mark Jackson
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 Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
5 Responses
  1. Avatar William

    If 15% of users comsumed at least one item of illegal content then that means 85% of users didn’t.

    So how does that compute when the article states only 44% of users consumed exclusively legal content.


    • Avatar Captain Cretin

      It means 7 people and a multiple amputee only download illegal stuff.

      (I suspect they mean 44% of the 15%)

    • They had several different groups, for example one that hardly consumed any illegal content and one that pretty much only consumed illegal content.

  2. Avatar Aaron Jenks

    I would like to see the figures broken down according to voting habits. To be sure, most illegal content (80% to 85%) is downloaded by white-collar Conservative voters; mainly downloading child pornography on their office computers.

  3. Avatar Jazzy

    The court orders blocking Sky/BT/Virgin/TalkTalk are just a load of nonsense. It takes 1 click on a chrome extension on my bar at the top and I can view isohunt, eztv, extra torrent in seconds using an IP address in Colorado, even my sister worked out how to do it and she’s near pension age

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