Piracy Much Higher Than Freeloaders Confess To, Ofcom Told

Illegal downloading of copyrighted content is up to twice as prevalent as perpetrators admit, according to research that will inform how Ofcom measures UK online piracy.

BDRC-Continental, commissioned by Ofcom to review a 2010 piracy survey by Kantar, has proposed a revised methodology.

The revisions, published by Ofcom in December, show that 17.1 percent of people admit to using “illegal” means of obtaining music, applications, games, TV shows, books, podcasts or others.

But the proportion of what BDRC-Continental calls “deduced illegal downloaders” rises to 33.9 percent, because this category includes people who download from sources other than “commercial websites”.

In practice, this conclusion is suspect. Even BDRC-Continental concedes: “Not all of these downloads will be illegal, as the respondent could have assigned downloading pictures from e.g. Facebook in this category in the pilot survey.”

So the firm has proposed refining the survey to specifically include only the six commercial content types above. When that happens, the “deduced illegal downloaders” rate falls to 30.9 percent.

Under the Digital Economy Act 2010, Ofcom has a duty to report on levels of online copyright infringement in the UK, though it has not yet begun.

The communications regulator commissioned research to identify the best research methodology to do so. GfK NOP has given Ofcom further qualitative research on motivations for piracy.