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41% of UK internet users unclear about what is, and is not, legal online content

One in six (18%) UK internet users aged 12+ consumed at least one item of online content illegally over the three-month period November 2012 - January 20134. Around a third of these (5%) exclusively consumed illegal content. These findings come from a study commissioned by the UK communication regulator Ofcom to market researcher Kantar Media and financed by the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO).

It is the third wave of a large-scale consumer tracking study into the extent of online copyright infringement, as well as wider digital behaviours and attitudes, among people aged 12+ in the UK.

Levels of infringement varied significantly by content type; the survey indicated that 10% of internet users aged 12+ consumed at least some music illegally over the three-month period, while 7% did so for films. For TV programmes, video games and computer software these figures were 6%, 2% and 3% respectively, while for e-books it was 1%.

Looking at all internet users who consumed content online over the three-month period, the survey find that 30% consumed at least one item of content online illegally. Furthermore, 33% of those who consumed film, and 26% of those who consumed music, did so illegally, while the lowest incidence of illegal consumption was among online book consumers, at 8%.

Overall volumes of illegal content consumed online varied by category. The report estimates that 280 million music tracks were consumed illegally during the period covered. This was followed by TV programmes (52 million), films (29 million), and e-books (18 million); computer software and video games were equally lowest at 7 million.

Across all consumers of illegal content, the median number of files downloaded or streamed illegally was eight. Music had the highest median score across the six content types (12 tracks - roughly the equivalent of an album). Films, TV programmes and books each had a median score of four, while computer software and video games had the lowest, at two.

A higher proportion of films (28%) were consumed illegally than for any other content type. This was followed by music (22%) and e-books (18%), and was lowest for computer software (12%).

Several services were used by a significantly higher proportion of those who had infringed at all than those who had consumed 100% legally. This applied both to licensed and unlicensed services. This was reflected in the mean number of services used, which stood at 5.7 services among infringers compared to 3.6 for non-infringers.

Thirty-five per cent of those who consumed any content illegally claimed to use 'peer-to-peer' services; this figure was 6% for those who indicated that all content was consumed legally. The figures for 'cyberlockers' were 12% and 2% respectively.

Twenty per cent of infringers claimed to have used uTorrent in the past three months, more than any other 'unlicensed' service.

Across all content types, those who downloaded or streamed illegally were skewed towards males (59%), those under 34 (68%), and ABC1s (59%). Although this balance does reflects the demographic make-up of those who consumed digital content online in general (whether lawfully or not), compared to non-infringers there are noticeable differences - the latter are more likely to be female (53%), over 34 (53%), and are even more likely to be ABC1 (69%) than the infringers.

The most commonly cited reasons for infringing were because it is free (48%), convenient (39%) and quick (36%). Close to a quarter (24%) of all infringers said they do it because it means they can try before they buy, rising to 28% for those who consumed both legal and illegal content. However, when asked directly, 47% of infringers indicated that they had previously accessed for free some of the digital and physical content they went on to pay for.

The top three factors that infringers said would encourage them to stop included the availability of cheaper legal services (28%), if it was clearer what is legal and what is not (24%), and if everything they wanted was available legally (22%). 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, with 16% of the latter insisting that nothing would encourage them to stop.

Sixteen per cent of all infringers indicated that they would be put off 'if my ISP sent me a letter saying they would suspend my internet access,' falling to 12% for both 'if my ISP sent me a letter informing me my account had been used to infringe' and 'if my ISP sent me a letter saying they would restrict my internet speed.'

Forty-one per cent 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. Lack of confidence appeared more prevalent among females and C2DEs. i.e. those less likely to participate in all forms of online activity (legal and illegal). Although the lack of confidence generally increased with age past 25, 12-15 year olds (35%) and 16-24 year olds (to a lesser extent at 32%) showed lower confidence.

The most commonly-cited indicator of the legality of a website was a reputable/well-known brand (28% stated this without being prompted). Examples include where a service was provided through a company's own website (e.g. BBC iPlayer), or where a service is large and well-known (e.g. iTunes).

"These new figures underline the challenge faced by the creative industries as new audience groups, young and old, migrate online," says Liz Bales, Director General of The Industry Trust for IP Awareness. "The industry has an important role in guiding people towards legitimate content and away from the temptation of ?free? downloads from illegal sites. Recent YouGov research also highlights accidental piracy as an emerging problem. Over a third of adults now say they are unable to distinguish between legitimate and pirate sites that often deploy clever copycat tactics to look like the real deal. To support those employed in making moments worth paying for, the film industry has created, a one-stop not-for-profit search engine tool that allows consumers to search popular films, all in one place."

What aspects of an online service which allows you to either download, or stream/access content
through the internet, would make you trust it was legal?

Click on picture to enlarge.

Story filed 29.05.13

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