UK surfers struggle to identify pirated content

Five out of six downloaders would ignore DEA warning letters, Ofcom finds

Stewart Mitchell
20 Nov 2012

UK internet users can't tell the difference between legal content and illegal content online, according to research from Ofcom.

The research forms part of Ofcom's planning for Digital Economy Act (DEA) enforcement, after publishing a draft code of conduct for the new rules - which will require major ISPs to send letters to alleged pirates and to explain where they can find licensed content on the internet.

Repeat offenders would be subject to sanctions, including possible web restrictions, but the Ofcom research suggests that the industry needs to better educate confused consumers, finding 47% of users couldn't "confidently identify whether the online content they download, stream or share is legal or not".

With letters due to start being sent out over piracy allegations from March 2014, Ofcom's findings also highlighted that downloaders would probably ignore letters telling them to stop.

Only one in six would stop after a first letter, Ofcom said. Sanctions would only kick in after three letters.

However, one in four infringers said they would be encouraged to stop pirating if cheaper legal services were available, with one in three saying they'd buy more if what they wanted was available from a legal source.

Money motivations

The researchers said one in six respondents believed they had downloaded illegal content, and confirmed the motivations behind it, with 54% of respondents saying they pirated "because it is free".

Other respondents said they liked non-legal services because they were quick, easy and enabled them to try before they buy.

The report echoed what consumer rights campaigners have long argued, namely that lack of choice and high prices are pushing consumers to illegal sources.

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