Europe's online source of news, data & analysis for professionals involved in packaged media and new delivery technologies

2% of UK internet users account for 74% of all infringements

Infringement is a minority activity, according to the results of a research programme published by UK communication regulator Ofcom and funded by The Intellectual Property Office on consumers' behaviour and attitudes towards lawful and unlawful access of copyright material using the internet.

A key finding from 21,475 respondents surveyed over May 2012-to-May 2013 period reveals that 17% of internet users consumed at least one item of infringing content, which equates to around a third (29%) of all consumers of online content.

The highest incidence of infringement occurred in music, but even here fewer than one in ten (9%) internet users infringed; for software and video games the figure dropped to just 2% of internet users.

A third (33%) of all consumers of online film infringed film at least once, while a quarter (26%) of music consumers infringed music. On a volume basis, almost a quarter (22%) of all content consumed online during the year was infringing, that's over 1.5bn files. However, this differed by content type; infringing films accounted for 35% of all films consumed online, infringing music for 22%, while infringing TV programmes for just 18%.

Looking more closely at the distribution of infringement, the research notes that this activity is heavily skewed; a small proportion of infringers account for the large majority of infringements. The data show that just 2% of internet users make up the top decile of infringers by volume, and these people accounted for three-quarters (74%) of all infringements. There is, therefore, a long tail of casual, low level or infrequent infringers.

The research found that some people appeared to be accessing vast amounts of infringing content. On average the top 10% of film infringers consumed 80 infringing films over a three month period. This equates to almost one per day, a figure that is likely to be explained by a combination of interest in film as a content type, and hoarding or stacking films for viewing at a later date.

Findings also reveal that, during an average three-month period, infringers tend to spend more than non-infringers on legal digital content (£26 vs. £16). 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.

On the demographics front, 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.

High volume infringers demonstrated a higher level of familiarity with online technology through the means and location they choose in order to access online content. The top 20% of infringers were significantly more likely than the bottom 80% of infringers to have streamed or accessed content either out of their home (37% vs. 25%) or using a mobile network (39% vs. 26%).

The analysts suggest that, given the complexity involved in detecting infringing activity on mobile and out-of-home networks, this may have significant implications for enforcement, particularly if these trends spread to the long tail.

Across all types of infringer, the most commonly given reasons for infringing copyright online were because 'it's free', 'it's easy/convenient' and 'it's quick'. However, there were significant differences between infringer groups; the highest volume infringers were more likely to say they already spend enough on content' (19% for top 10% 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%).

There were also differences in the attitudes towards potential measures designed to encourage people to stop infringing. The top 10% 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%).

The research concludes that, although these figures are based on claimed rather than actual behaviour, they may suggest that enforcement measures are more likely to be effective with heavier infringers. They also suggest that no single enforcement solution is likely to address online copyright infringement in isolation; a complementary mix of measures including better lawful alternatives, more education about copyright matters, and targeted enforcement is more likely to be successful.

The research demonstrated the clear demand for online access to copyright material, with well over half (58%) of internet users downloading or streaming at least one item of content during the year.

Story filed 15.09.13

Bookmark and Share

Article Comments

comments powered by Disqus