Small proportion of web users responsible for majority of illegal downloads

New reports sheds light on the illegal downloading habits of web users.


The illegal downloading of copyrighted material is a "minority activity", according to a new Ofcom report.

The study, carried out on the regulator's behalf by Kantor Media, found that 74 per cent of copyright infringements were carried out by just two per cent of internet users.

"There is, therefore, a long tail of casual, low level or infrequent infringers," the report said.

It processed a total of 21,475 survey responses from individuals in four separate surveys carried out between May 2012 and May 2013.

The report, which was funded by the Intellectual Property Office, showed that 17 per cent of internet users consumed at least one item of infringing content, which equates to around a third (29 per cent) of all online content consumers.

The highest incidence of infringement occurred in music, but even here fewer than one in ten (9 per cent) internet users infringed, the report admitted. For software and video games the figure dropped to just two per cent of internet users.

Copyright infringers tend to spend more than non-infringers on legal digital content, the report also found.

On average those that illegally downloaded material spend 26 on legal content over a three-month period, compared with just 16 by those that never illegally downloaded content.

The most common reasons for infringing copyright online were because its "free", "convenient" and "quick", but there were significant differences between the various types of infringers.

The highest volume infringers were more likely to say they already spend enough on content (19 per cent for the top 10 per cent of infringers compared with seven per cent among the bottom 80 per cent) and that "legal content is too expensive" (38 per cent versus 13 per cent).

Others said they didn't want to wait for content to become available on legal services (19 per cent versus eight per cent), and that "the industry makes too much money" (19 per cent versus eight per cent).

Only one quarter of the people who consumed the most illegal content said they would stop if they thought they might be sued. One in five said they would stop if the got a letter from an ISP telling them their account would be suspended.

Ofcom said 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 report concluded.

Featured Resources

Modern governance: The how-to guide

Equipping organisations with the right tools for business resilience

Free Download

Cloud operational excellence

Everything you need to know about optimising your cloud operations

Watch now

A buyer’s guide to board management software

How the right software can improve your board’s performance

The real world business value of Oracle autonomous data warehouse

Lead with a 417% five-year ROI

Download now


UK 5G spectrum auction will finally go ahead this week

UK 5G spectrum auction will finally go ahead this week

10 Mar 2021

Most Popular

How to boot Windows 11 in Safe Mode
Microsoft Windows

How to boot Windows 11 in Safe Mode

6 Jan 2022
How to speed up Windows 11
Microsoft Windows

How to speed up Windows 11

7 Jan 2022
Solving cyber security's diversity problem
Careers & training

Solving cyber security's diversity problem

5 Jan 2022