Ofcom report finally sets baseline for judging copyright infringement
Assessing levels of copyright infringement and the effect it is having on the various copyright holders and their respective industries is very difficult to judge, and even more so during a period where many people are cutting back on unnecessary spending which may result in reducing spending on films/music/software being blamed on increased copyright infringement.
Ofcom as the body presented with the enviable task of sanctioning letters to be sent to copyright infringer's in a campaign that is not likely to start until March 2014 has commissioned and now published the result of an extensive survey on the media consumption habits of over 4400 people aged 12 or over.
The survey is not a one time affair, but will be repeated every quarter so that efforts to reduce the level of copyright infringement can be judged, and for those advocating the expense in time and money for a letter writing campaign they will be hoping the results show a distinct decrease.
The survey produced some interesting results, and reveal that rather than every man and his dog being involved it is actually relatively small numbers, though a consistent theme is that if you are male and under 34 years old you are more likely to engage in a copyright infringing activity. The survey considered different media types individually:
- Music copyright infringement 8% were found to have downloaded or streamed a track in an infringing manner. As a percentage of those who actual consume music online, this works out at just under 1 in 4 at 23%.
- Films copyright infringement 6% downloaded or streamed at least one film during the survey period of May-July 2012. This works at 31% of those who actually watched any film online.
- TV programmes copyright infringement 6% of Internet users watched a TV show via a source that did not have a rights holders permission. Of those who claimed to watch a TV show online, 19% of people have done so in a way that infringes copyright. Of those who access a mixture of content from legal or unlawful sources they spent £25.69 over a three month period, those who only accessed unlawful content spent just £3.51.
- Computer software copyright infringement Just 2% of Internet users infringed during the course of the survey, if limiting the figures to exclude those that did not download any new software the figure rises to 17%.
- Books copyright infringement 1% accessed an e-book in a way that infringes, which if confined to those who had accessed any e-books was 11%.
- Video games copyright infringement 2% was the surprisingly small number who downloaded a video game illegally from the cohort surveyed, among those who had downloaded a video game at all the figure was 18%.
The full 92 page report has many more metrics and analysis and will evolve as the surveys progess. Of course a survey carried out on behalf of the national telecoms regulator Ofcom may mean people are less than honest, but the people carrying out the survey have attempted to factor this in, asking more about what people obtain without infringing copyright and which identifying sites people regularly use.
So while the survey perhaps tells us nothing that is absolutely new, it does provide a baseline for Ofcom to judge how the market is changing, for example it is possible that as streaming services like NetFlix and Lovefilm become more popular and more people have connections that will handle streamed HD content, that even with no copyright infringement enforcement the level of infringing for films and TV content may reduce.
Google was criticised by the BPI over the promotion of music via its Google Play store, while still listing infringing content on its search engine. This is very much the carrot and stick approach from Google, attempting to encourage people to use what Google hopes will be an easy to use service that allows people to play content where they want.
An important point often missed in the battle over copyright infringement is the difficulty that the average consumer has in understanding what is legal and what is not. Surely it is not beyond the wit of major copyright holders to develop a labeling system for websites so that people can easily see if a video or audio stream is likely to be legal.