Copyright and digital piracy

Digital piracy robs the publishing, book, music and film industries of monetary value, according to a Kantar research report for the United Kingdom’s media regulatory agency Ofcom in 2013. Digital piracy accounts for trillions of dollars of lost sales for these creative media sectors around the world. Pervasive media piracy threatens the future of
media as we know it.

“Piracy reduces the sector’s economic contribution, although estimates of sales losses vary. In this context, suppliers of licensed digital cultural products for sale or for access via a subscription, face an uneven playing field in relation to unlicensed suppliers,” according to Enders Analysis in the United Kingdom.

The European Commission estimates the economic contribution of the “creative industries”, or film, books and music, at 3 percent of GDP, or €500 billion of turnover, according to Enders in 2013. The media industry, including television, radio, newspapers, magazines and digital media typically represents between 1.5 percent and 2.5 percent of a nation’s GDP. The highest media-to-GDP ratios are typically in the most developed countries, according to “The Media Economy”, by Alan B. Abarran.

“Why is piracy prevalent? Common sense indicates that the ‘free’ option to obtain copies of copyrighted content holds instant appeal: no expenditure or payment is required, only a broadband connection. By contrast, the purchaser allocates a share of his income (which reduces expenditure on other items), and must have a means of online payment (credit card, voucher, PayPal). The first peer-reviewed study on piracy in the UK by Ofcom, the regulator, has confirmed that “because it’s free” is by far the most significant driver of piracy, cited by 56 percent of (pirating) respondents,” according to the Enders analysis.

Ofcom completed a study of legal and pirated content consumption in the United Kingdom in 2013 through Kantar research. They found that 20 percent of those who consumed films and 14 percent of those who consumed music did so illegally, while 67 percent of those who consumed films and 74 percent of those who consumed music did so legally. Of all Internet users 12+, the numbers are staggeringly different. Only 14 percent of those who consumed films and 28 percent of those who consumed music did so legally, while 4 percent of film consumers and 5 percent of music consumers did so illegally. The data suggests the ease by which content can be illegally downloaded on the Internet may play a part in the significantly lower number of people who consume content legally online compared to all respondents.

Those respondents who said they have legally consumed content say they access 12 pieces of music, 2 films, 6 TV programs and 2 computer software programs per month, while infringers say they consume 12 music items, 4 films and 4 TV programs, according to the Ofcom study.


Who are the infringers? They tend to be male (59 percent), between 16 and 34 years old (58 percent), and in the ABC1 group more often (59 percent) compared to the C2DE group (41 percent). Legal content consumers tend to be female (53 percent), between the ages of 16 and 34 years old (38 percent) and in the ABC1 age group (69 percent).

The data set is a part of a collection of 500 revenue and usership trends in mobile, social, Internet, tablet, video and other digital categories, published in the 200-page Global Digital Media Trendbook 2013. GDMT, in its eight year, is to be published by World Newsmedia Network, a not-for-profit media research company, in September 2013. To subscribe to the PDF report and/or the tablet edition, go to www.wnmn.org, or contact mstone@wnmn.org.

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