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Decreasing levels of online copyright infringement by 12-24 year olds in the UK

Following a study earlier this year, the IPO has now published its eighth report into online copyright infringement in the UK.

Following a study earlier this year, the IPO has now published its eighth report into online copyright infringement in the UK. The full report can be found here.

This assesses levels of infringement for six main types of online content (music, film, TV programmes, eBooks, video games and computer software) within the context of wider digital behavioural patterns. The study suggests that music, film and TV are still the most heavily affected sectors in terms of overall levels of infringement.

Who are the infringers?

The 2018 survey estimates that 15% of UK internet users aged 12+ (amounting to approximately 6,525,000 people) consumed at least one item of online content illegally, which is similar to its findings from previous years in 2016 and 2017. Interestingly, however, the IPO noted a decrease in infringement among 12-15 year olds, from 25% in 2017 to 22% in 2018. Similarly, infringement among 16-24 year-olds also seems to have decreased from 27% in 2017 to 25% in 2018.

Types of infringement

The types of infringement break down as follows:

  1. TV programmes had the highest infringement level of any content type with 23% of UK internet users consuming TV programmes illegally - up slightly from 22% in 2017.
  2. Infringement of music stood at 19% - up slightly from 18% in 2017.
  3. Similarly, infringement of films also stood at 19% - down slightly from 21% in 2017.
  4. Infringement of software was recorded at 20% - down from 26% in 2017.
  5. Infringement of books was up at 13% - compared to 11% in 2017.
  6. Infringement of video games remained constant, with no change at 16% from 2017.

Why do people continue to access illegal content?

Apart from the fact that illegal content is free, the IPO concluded that consumers look for "speed, ease and convenience". The survey also seems to suggest that certain people (22%) might be deterred from accessing illegal content if they had access to cheaper legal services, and others (21%) might be deterred if they were provided with clearer definitions as to what is and is not legal from the outset. Only 1% of those who took the survey said that there is nothing that would stop them infringing.

What does this mean for the future?

The 2018 survey has found that while overall levels of infringement have remained relatively stable over the past three years, there has been a gentle drop in illegal activity by certain groups. This is particularly true among the younger respondents of the survey, with over 50% of 16-24 year olds now paying to access at least one subscription service. Encouragingly, nearly two-thirds (62%) of internet users also claim to be confident in their ability to identify legal content from illegal content online.

While unlawful use of online copyright material persists, the 2018 survey is indicative of a new behavioural trend, especially among younger generations, that illegal consumption of content is becoming less attractive and subscription streaming services are being favoured in its stead. Hopefully this trend will continue as content providers make it easier and more convenient for consumers to access content through legitimate means.

With special thanks to trainee, Laura Fabris, for her contribution to this article.

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