Almost a third of UK Internet users who stream or download music, TV and films did so at least once illegally in the quarter to the end of January, with almost 400 million files digitally pirated in the three-month period, according to the media regulator.
Ofcom’s latest online copyright infringement tracker report found that digital piracy of music, film, TV, books, video games and computer software rose in the three months to the end of January compared with the previous quarter.
The report, financially supported by the Intellectual Property Office, found that almost one in six (18 per cent) of internet users aged 12 and over accessed digital entertainment media using an illegal service.
This is up from 16 per cent in the previous quarterly report, although Ofcom pointed out that the rise in piracy coincides with an overall boost in the proportion of internet users accessing digital media content from 57 per cent to 60 per cent in the three-month period.
However, the report points out that many internet users never access content such as music, films and TV shows. A look at internet users who regularly download and stream digital media content shows piracy levels of 30 per cent.
This rises to a digital piracy rate of 33 per cent among those who watch films online, and 26 per cent of online music buffs.
Music is by far the most popular digital media pirated, accounting for 280 million of the 386 million items of content illegally accessed over the three-month period.
TV programming ranked second at 52 million; films at 29 million; ebooks at 18 million; and computer software and video games lowest at 7 million.
Ofcom said that of the 18 per cent of UK Internet users who engaged in digital piracy in the three-month period, about 5 per cent only ever use illegal services.
The report shows that of those who accessed content illegally 59 per cent were male, and 68 per cent were under 34 years of age.
The most common reason given for accessing illegal content are because it is “free, convenient and quick”.
According to Liz Bales, Director General of pro-copyright consumer education body The Industry Trust for IP Awareness, the findings underline the challenge faced by the creative industries as new audience groups, young and old, migrate online. “The industry has an important role in guiding people towards legitimate content and away from the temptation of ‘free’ downloads from illegal sites. Recent YouGov research also highlights accidental piracy as an emerging problem. Over a third of adults now say they are unable to distinguish between legitimate and pirate sites that often deploy clever copycat tactics to look like the real deal. To support those employed in making moments worth paying for, the film industry has created FindAnyFilm.com, a one-stop not-for-profit search engine tool that allows consumers to search popular films, all in one place,” she advises.