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Consumer ignorance over what constitutes legal content needs to be addressed head-on

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Consumer ignorance over what constitutes legal content needs to be addressed head-on

The research released from Ofcom which found that nearly half (47%) of internet users were ignorant as to whether the content they download is illegal or not, has been met with concern by the Federation Against Software Theft.

Julian Heathcote Hobbins, General Counsel, Federation Against Software Theft, stated: “This report was commissioned by Ofcom as a direct result of a recommendation in the Hargreaves Report for the regulator to gather independent research into content use and abuse and the findings are depressing,”

“According to the figures, 16% of internet users have proactively downloaded online content illegally in the May to June 2012 period which is far higher than I think many suspected.  On the positive, only 2% stated that they were downloading software,” he stated.

The OCI Tracker Benchmark Study included different types of content, from software programmes to books.

“ISP’s have historically attempted to defend themselves against the Digital Economy Act (DEA) on the grounds of ‘basic rights and freedoms’. The resulting legal actions led to rights holders being blocked from using the anti piracy provisions of the DEA. This research seems to confirm that the majority of downloaders do so because it is free. Interestingly one in six infringers in this research stated that they would stop immediately if they received just one letter from their provider! But in reality that should be 5 in 6 with just the minority needing to face enforcement action. This is troubling,” added Julian Heathcote Hobbins.

“In the past it has been convenient for end users to hide behind a screen of ignorance when it comes to downloading pirated software. Yet with a number of high profile cases on popular download sites such as Pirate Bay, MegaUpload and BitTorrent facing justice for copyright infringement it seems less likely end users can feign uncertainty over legality of downloads. In short, the motto must be, ‘nothing is free’. If it is, it is most likely to be too good to be true. In fact this research shows us that there is a hard core of internet users who knowingly download illicit copies,” he continued.

“From the software industry’s perspective the message is clear. While ignorance is no defence we must continue to educate end users on the law and point to sources of legitimate product. However, there is a determined rump hell bent on accessing illegal content and it is this group that needs to be addressed through a mix of enforcement as well as encouragement,” he concluded.

Key findings of the Ofcom research:

  • One in six (16%) internet users aged 12+ downloaded or accessed online content illegally during the three month period from May to July 2012;
  • 8% of users consumed music illegally, but just 2% did so for games and software;
  • The most common reasons cited for accessing content illegally were because it is free (54%), convenient (48%) and quick (44%);
  • Infringers said they would be encouraged to stop doing so if cheaper legal services were available (39%), everything they wanted was available from a legal source (32%) or it was more clear which content was legal (26%);
  • One in six said they would stop if they received one notifying letter from their ISP.