The latest wave of the Online copyright infringement tracker survey from the UK’s Intellectual Property Office suggests that during lockdown, some respondents reported that with their general consumption in entertainment increasing, so too did their use of illegal sources, with motivations being a lack of access to specific content on streaming subscriptions, availability on existing entertainment subscriptions and/or an unwillingness to pay additional costs for content outside of what they already pay for.
The 10th wave of the research was asking about a period markedly different from previous years. For much of the time-period, respondents were being asked to reflect on (i.e. the previous three months) and during the time of fieldwork, the UK (and much of the world) was in a state of lockdown owing to the Covid-19 pandemic. Many data points, perhaps as a result, appear to have shifted when compared to the previous year’s study.
In the qualitative phase of research, respondents elaborated on the peculiarities and extraordinary circumstances of this year, detailing some of the surprising benefits as well as the challenges and struggles which came with the experience of lockdown. Those who had been furloughed reported a definite increase in their consumption of their favourite forms of entertainment while those who were still working and studying mostly noted their consumption had remained relatively consistent.
The reason for an increase in entertainment consumption among those with lots of free time during lockdown was the comfort and distraction found in activities such as reading, listening to music, watching films and playing video games etc. Respondents relied upon these activities to fill their time from a practical perspective but also to take their mind off the real world and to help combat stress, boredom and anxiety.
In terms of levels of infringement, the findings from the qualitative phase showed that while many reported no change in their use of illegal sources, some noted that owing to their general consumption in entertainment increasing, so too did their use of illegal sources.
Motivations for doing so remained consistent with those uncovered in the previous wave (2019); a lack of access to specific content on streaming subscriptions they use, availability on existing entertainment subscriptions and/or an unwillingness to pay additional costs for content outside of what they already pay for.
The closing exercise of the Online Community focused on potential communication materials and messages to try and encourage behaviour change around online infringement. Using the segmentation of respondents established in last year’s study, this exercise showed that a number of types of messages were effective for ‘Cautious Infringers’ – those who are uneasy and unsure about illegally accessing content, highlighting the need for education and awareness.
Yet, it emerged that in order to try and reach those who are harder to engage in behaviour change, i.e. the ‘Savvy Infringers’, the most effective way to talk about the consequences of infringement was by focusing on the impact on the individual – both within the industry as well as the impact on the individual consumer through risks to their own hardware and devices.
As established in the previous wave, users of illegal sources mostly fell into two segments:
The Communications Testing phase again revealed the contrasting needs and attitudes of both segments:
Considerations for cautious infringers:
Considerations for savvy infringers:
According to the IPO, there is potential to explore messages around risk of greater legal action and consequences for those who infringe – this is not currently seen as a viable threat but was mentioned by a few as a potential deterrent if enforced more widely.