Pro-copyright consumer education body The Industry Trust for IP Awareness has welcomed the publication of a report, Taking the Profit Out of Intellectual Property Crime: Piracy and Organised Crime, supporting publisher the Royal United Service Institute’s (RUSI) position on the need for a whole-of-system coordination between government agencies and the private sector to aid the demonetisation of piracy, while continuing to work to reduce consumer demand for pirated content through education, specifically through driving awareness as to the personal risks associated with piracy.
“With pirate content distribution models more sophisticated than ever, this week’s RUSI report has revealed how online piracy of TV, film and live sports content generates hundreds of millions of pounds every year for technically-savvy and well-coordinated organised crime groups, as well as individual offenders,” notes Liz Bales, CEO at The Industry Trust. “Tackling this issue is inevitably complex, and as detailed by RUSI, requires a coordinated dual-approach involving law enforcement, regulators, financial institutions and the private sector as well as reducing consumer demand,” she asserts.
According to Bales, one of the main challenges faced when tackling the demand for illegal content is lack of consumer awareness of the risks they expose themselves to, and while consumers are largely aware of the illegality of accessing pirated content, there is a pervasive view that there are no losers when it comes to pirating material. “Recent Industry Trust research has revealed the sobering truth behind this assumption, with 2020 data showing that more than 50 per cent of current infringers have been a victim of at least one adverse effect of watching pirated material, which include hacking, viruses, identity theft and fraud – a significant increase from 2019 and confirmation that these risks are a growing problem,” she warns.
“The risks are even higher for those who pay to access illegal content, which accounts for an increasing portion of those who infringe; around a third of consumers who had ever infringed admit to paying a one-off or regular fee for an illicit subscription,” she notes. “In this group, the risk of fraud is much higher, with over a quarter (26 per cent) falling victim to often serious fraud, and 25 per cent stating they had been overcharged by being charged multiple times.”
The Industry Trust says that negative effects are not limited to financial and security issues, with 31 per cent of current infringers reporting being exposed to inappropriate content as a result of their activity, including offensive pop-ups, adverts and age-inappropriate content.
“Remarkably, Industry Trust data also shows that almost a third (28 per cent) of current infringers claim to feel worried or guilty about the consequences of not watching through official sources,” adds Bales. “The Industry Trust and its partners believe that the joy of watching TV, film and live sports content should not come with an added layer of fear, so by opting to watch via official sources, be that purchasing or renting digitally, going to the cinema once they safely re-open, watching on DVD and Blu-ray or streaming via a legitimate subscription service, audiences can keep their devices, personal information and bank accounts safe while enjoying the best quality experience possible,” she suggests.
“Thankfully, consumer education is proven to make a significant impact on people’s perception of piracy,” she says. “Industry Trust research has shown that informing consumers who infringer on the risks they expose themselves to when accessing pirated content makes a huge impact on their perception of piracy; 44 per cent of users who access illegal content said learning about the risks made them reconsider their behaviour and 52 per cent said that it had put them off piracy altogether.”
“At a time where UK consumers are more reliant than ever on film and TV content to keep entertained throughout lockdown and social restrictions, the RUSI report is a timely reminder of the continued need for consumer outreach and education so UK viewers are able to make safe viewing choices, while law enforcement, government and businesses come together to take the profit out of IP crime and to begin to dismantle the structures that enable criminally operated pirate distribution models to operate,” she concludes.