Nearly half of all Internet users are unsure whether the content they are accessing online is legal, Ofcom research has found.
However, one in six people online believed they downloaded or accessed content illegally over a three-month period this year.
The findings come from the first wave of a large-scale consumer study into the extent of online copyright infringement among Internet users aged 12 and above.
Ofcom says this ongoing research will identify trends over time, examining infringement of copyright on music, films, TV programmes, software, books and video games.
According to the report, 47 per cent of users cannot confidently identify whether the online content they download, stream or share is legal or not1 – highlighting the importance of increased efforts to educate and inform consumers.
In June, Ofcom published a draft Code that would require large fixed Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to inform customers of allegations that their Internet connection has been used to infringe copyright, and to explain where they can find licensed content on the Internet.
Under the amended Communications Act 2003, Ofcom will report to the Government on efforts made by content owners to invest in awareness campaigns to help educate consumers about the impact of copyright infringement.
The consumer study also found that:
The research follows a recommendation in the Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property and Growth that Ofcom should start gathering independent data and establishing trends in the area of online copyright before its formal reporting duties begin, under the Digital Economy Act 2010, when the Code comes into force.
Consumer research is only one perspective on levels of online copyright infringement. For a more complete picture, it should be considered alongside direct measurement of behaviour on file-sharing websites and wider industry data. Ofcom expects to consider all these data sources as part of its statutory reporting duties in the near future.
The full report – the OCI Tracker Benchmark Study – was funded by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), and carried out by Kantar Media on behalf of Ofcom. The report contains details about the methodology used, and the underlying data is also being made available for further analysis.
Liz Bales, Director General of the Industry Trust for IP Awareness said the film, TV and video industry had long believed that education has a vital role to play in helping people understand where they could find official content and had invested heavily in education programmes for a number of years. “An example of this can be seen in the industry’s support and promotion of FindAnyFilm.com, as an official gateway to cinema listings, DVDs, Blu-rays and the latest online services, all in one place. But pointing to where they can access official content is not enough by itself. It’s also crucial to help them appreciate the value of film, TV and video and the role copyright plays in safeguarding the future of the entertainment they love,” she advised.