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Online copyright infringement tracker benchmark study Q3 2012

Published 20|11|12

This report details the main findings of a large-scale consumer tracking study into the extent of online copyright infringement, as well as wider digital behaviours and attitudes, among people aged 12+ in the UK. The study was commissioned by Ofcom, undertaken by Kantar Media and made possible by financial support from the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO). It is the first in a series of research waves intended to generate benchmarks and time series relevant to the access and use of copyright material online.

The research stemmed from a recommendation in the 2011 Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property and Growth that Ofcom should not wait until its formal reporting duties arising from the Digital Economy Act began to start gathering independent data and establishing trends in the area of online copyright. Government adopted this recommendation and tasked Ofcom and IPO to work together to conduct research to gather the necessary evidence. This report is the result of this partnership.

This is a complex research task. The ways in which consumers access and share copyright material online change regularly, and infringement levels in particular are notoriously difficult to measure. Rather than focusing on one industry, the study looks at six main types of online content music, film, TV programmes, books, video games and computer software and for each of these assesses levels of infringement and locates this within wide patterns of consumer behaviour and content consumption.

The study seeks to provide as comprehensive a dataset as possible. It includes both older children (12-15 year olds) and adults who use the internet less frequently to get a nationally representative sample of UK individuals aged 12+. This requires a very large sample size (4400 individuals), and a hybrid online and face-to-face survey methodology. This approach has been carefully piloted and subjected to independent peer review. As such, we are confident that it represents the most appropriate and rigorous consumer research methodology to use in this area.

That said, as with all approaches to research, consumer surveys have limitations. In particular they rely on participants reporting their behaviour accurately and honestly a sensitive issue in areas involving unlawful behaviour. We have allowed for this as best we can, most notably by deriving levels of infringing behaviour, rather than asking people about them outright.

Caution is needed when attempting to compare the results in this study with other market data, including industry figures relating to volumes of activity. Where data are not directly comparable, methodological difference in particular could lead to significant variations in apparently corresponding metrics.

It is also important to remember that consumer research offers only one perspective on levels of online copyright infringement. For a complete view of infringement levels, it needs to be considered alongside direct measurement of infringing behaviour on file-sharing websites and available industry data (e.g. network traffic volumes by protocol). Ofcom expects to consider a variety of data sources in the future as part of its Digital Economy Act reporting duties.

Our hope is for this study to be a useful first step in improving and building the necessary evidence base for online copyright infringement policy. Our aim has been to report the data neutrally and without interpretation. Where we have made assumptions about the research we have noted this and our approach is available to scrutinise in the technical appendix at the end of this report. Alongside the report we have also published edited data tables and slide packs for those who wish to analyse the data themselves, and full tables are available on request.

We are keen to build on this first report. To this end we would welcome feedback and comment on ways to improve future waves of this research.

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