Almost 50 percent of Internet users are unsure whether the content they are accessing online is legal, according to a new study from the United Kingdom. Yet, one in six people online believed they have committed copyright infringement by downloading, streaming, or otherwise accessing content illegally over a three-month period this year.
The study was conducted by researchers with Ofcom, an independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries. The large-scale consumer survey examined the extent of online copyright infringement among Internet users aged 12 and above.
Below are several additional findings of note:
- Reported levels of infringement varied considerably by content type: 8% of Internet users consumed some music illegally in the three months, but just 2% did so for games and software;
- The most common reasons cited for accessing content illegally were because it is free (54%), convenient (48%) and quick (44%). Around a quarter (26%) of infringers said it allows them to try before they buy;
- Infringers said they would be encouraged to stop doing so if cheaper legal services were available (39%), everything they wanted was available from a legal source (32%) or it was more clear what content was legal (26%). One in six said they would stop if they received one notifying letter from their internet service provider (ISP); and
- Those who consumed a mixture of legal and illegal online content in the form of music, films and TV programs reported spending more on legal content in these categories over the three-month period than those who consumed entirely legal or illegal content.
One of the goals of the study was to assess the need for awareness campaigns to help educate consumers about the impact of copyright infringement. Like the U.S. Six Strikes Program, the U.K. will soon implement requirements mandating that large ISPs inform customers that their Internet connection has been used to commit copyright infringement, and to explain where they can find legal content online.