Ofcom concludes final wave of online copyright infringement research

by Wayne Beynon on November 14, 2013

The final wave of the Ofcom Online Copyright Infringement Tracker covering March – May 2013 has been published.

The latest report, which has been funded by the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) and undertaken by Kantar Media, follows on from the previous studies: Wave 1 (May – July 2012), Wave 2 (Aug – Oct 2012) and Wave 3 (Nov – Jan 2013).

It is the fourth in a series of research waves intended to establish benchmarks relevant to the use of copyright material online.

The research stemmed from a recommendation in the 2011 Hargreaves Intellectual Property Review that Ofcom should not wait until the roll out of the Digital Economy Act to start gathering independent data in the area of online copyright. As a result the Government tasked Ofcom and the IPO to create a universal report regarding attitudes and behaviours towards online copyright infringement in the UK.

In the fourth wave, a sample of 5,444 represents the total internet population (aged 12+) of 44.5 million.

As a result it is now possible to put together a picture of the online copyright infringement landscape, for the period May 2012 – May 2013, incorporating the six key content types (Music, TV, Films, Books, Software and Video Game), utilising information gathered from a sample of over 20,000 people. The result will be one of the largest studies of its type anywhere in the world.

The study provides an in-depth analysis on how attitudes, understandings and behaviours differ between high and low volume online copyright infringers, and those who don’t infringe at all. These are then assessed within wider patterns of consumer behaviour and content consumption.

Key findings include (taken from IPO October newsletter – http://www.ipo.gov.uk/ipconnect-201304.pdf):

• Infringement is an activity carried out by the minority, with 17% of all internet users accessing content illegally. Of all digital content, 22% of files were accessed illegally – over 1.5 billion files.

• The top 10% of infringers (2% of 12+ internet users) were responsible for 74% of infringed content. The top 20% of infringers (3% of 12+ internet users) were responsible for 86%.

• Infringers spend more on both digital content and other content (including physical, live and merchandise) than non-infringers. Approximate annual spend on content was £341 for non-infringers, £468 for infringers, with the top 10% of infringers spending £847.

• 44% of all 12+ internet users were not confident (not particularly or not at all confident) of the legality of online content.

•More infringers stream and download content outside the home using WI-FI networks than non-infringers. 18% of infringers used outside home WI-FI compared to 10% of non-infringers. 30% of infringers used mobile networks (3G/4G) compared to 21% of non-infringers.

• Increased numbers paying for music: The proportion of consumers who paid for any online music (46% to 52%) and films (42% to 49%) has increased over the 13 months covered by the tracker.

• Levels of infringement remained stable over the year: Among online content consumers, there have been no significant movements in infringement levels over the 13 months, even seasonally.

• Infringers were generally skewed towards being male, 16-24 and C2DE compared to non-infringers. Music, film and TV programme infringers were also more likely to be unemployed.

• 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 in reasoning between infringer groups.

Wayne Beynon is one of a team of IP lawyers at Cardiff and London based law firm, Capital Law.

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