Analysis

Ofcom releases latest copyright infringement study in the UK


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ofcomCommunications regulator Ofcom has released the fourth wave of its consumer-tracking study into online copyright infringement, providing the music industry (and others) with the latest stats on piracy in the UK.

Topline stats: 17% of British internet users aged 12+ consumed at least one piece of online content illegally between March and May this year: around 7.4m people. However, only 4% of internet users exclusively consumed illegal content: a hardcore crew of 1.7m pirates.

Ofcom’s separate report breaking out individual content types estimates that 199m music tracks were consumed illegally through downloads and streams in the three-month period. It adds that 9% of UK internet users downloaded or streamed at least one music track illegally, accounting for 26% of people who consumed music online in any way.

As a proportion, illegal streams and downloads accounted for 16% of all digital music consumed by Brits during the period. And following the pattern of the study’s previous waves, people who consume both legal and illegal music online spend the most on music overall – £95.31 over the three months covered by the latest report.

Two points we think you should focus on when reading Ofcom’s research. First: the separate High Volume Infringers report that analyses the top 10% of pirates in various content categories. For music, the top 10% of infringers consumed 485 tracks illegally between March and May, on average, accounting for 74% of all music infringements.

But this top 10% also claimed to have paid for 120 tracks on average in that period, with 29% of them using Spotify and 33% using iTunes. Also, 65% of this top 10% said they’d be interested in a £3 all-you-can-eat music subscription, which is food for thought (and argument).

Second: There have now been four ‘waves’ of Ofcom’s study, so we can look at some trends: here are the breakout reports for wave one, wave two and wave three for comparison.

The four most popular legal music services have remained fairly static over that period: YouTube, iTunes, Amazon MP3 and Spotify used by (in the latest study) 53%, 33%, 23% and 19% of digital music users.

But check the proportions of legal versus illegal digital music consumption, in terms of tracks: the ratio was 74-26 in favour of legal in wave one, 76-24 in wave two, 78-22 in wave three and 84-16 in wave four, with the number of tracks consumed illegally falling from 301m to 297m to 280m to 199m over those four studies. That, right there, is the streaming effect.

There’s much more to say: watch for a special feature in the coming days on what else we’ve learned from the four waves of Ofcom’s study.

Stuart Dredge

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