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Web users: We've got NO IDEA if we're stealing content or not

Intellectual property? That's like military intelligence

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An Ofcom survey, paid for by the UK's Intellectual Property Office, has found that almost half of internet users think they're stealing stuff, but they're far from certain.

The survey polled 4,400 people, and concluded that half of them don't know if the content they're downloading is legitimate or not, while only one in six know it's illegal and don't care - so clearly the public needs shepherding from their ISP to help them become better people.

The question was actually: "How confident are you that you know what is legal and what isn’t in terms of downloading, streaming/accessing and sharing content through the internet?" with a slim majority being confident on the subject. Twenty-eight per cent were "not particularly" confident, while 17 per cent were "not at all confident" and 3 per cent didn't understand what was asked.

Not that Kantar Media, which carried out the survey, has gone out of its way to make things clear, providing almost 200 pages of analysis drawing almost-impenetrable conclusions such as the following (slide pack 3, page 7):

TV programme infringers who accessed both legal and illegal content online claimed to spend the most on paid-for content (including physical rentals and purchases), spending on average £25.69 over the 3-month period. The 4 per cent of internet users aged 12+ who only consumed illegal online content, spent much less (£3.51).

The study also counts YouTube as a music service, comparable to iTunes and Amazon. The problem is that while we might all listen to music on YouTube, to try out a new band or practice our Gangnam Style, it hardly compares to Spotify or LastFM, which appear on the same chart (slide pack 1, page 17).

Across music, films, TV and games there is a general trend that about a fifth of the content is stolen, rising to almost half of the software accessed over the internet, and dropping to a tenth for electronic books, all of which doesn't seem that bad.

Ofcom wanted the numbers compiled as it was asked by the Hargreaves Review to evaluate the scale of piracy with a view to "building the necessary evidence base for online copyright infringement policy". There's no conclusion attached to these results, but Ofcom "welcomes feedback" on the methodology and ways it might gather such data in future.

"Unlawful access is a niche activity - but a small number of people generate large amounts of unlawful traffic," Justin Le Patourel, head of copyright at Ofcom, told the Westminster Media Forum today.

Indeed, it's just a few. Only eight per cent of the survey sample aged 12 and above downloaded unlicensed music but accounted for a quarter of all music tracks downloaded by volume. The five per cent of those who downloaded unlicensed movie content account for a third of all digital movie bits being shifted. The survey demolishes the myth that devoted pirates are also high spenders. The five per cent of users who only ever used unlicensed material spent much less than the average: £13.80 over three months, compared to £77.24.

For some users, the price is always too high. Even if the cost per song track fell to 39p, then almost 44 per cent of those surveyed said they wouldn't pay. The over-55s were the least likely to pay while youths (specifically 12 to 15 years) were the most likely.

Seven in 10 infringers are blokes aged 16 to 34, and most are pretty wealthy in the ABC1 demographic - which means they have decent-paying jobs. ®

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