Ofcom study shows confusion about what is legal to download is still rife among internet users
Nearly half of all internet users (47 per cent) still have little or no idea if they are downloading content illegally according to Ofcom.
When people in a survey carried out for the communications regulator were asked: "How confident are you that you know what is legal and what isn't in terms of downloading, streaming/accessing and sharing content through the internet?", 28 per cent said "not particularly confident", 17 per cent "not at all confident", and 3 per cent just "don't know".
As Ofcom's draft Code of Practice, which makes internet service providers (ISPs) responsible for informing and educating customers on this issue, wends its way through Parliament, the regulator said this study highlights the importance of the task facing these companies.
"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".
The study, which was funded by the Intellectual Property Office, was carried out following a recommendation in the Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property and Growth.
This suggested that Ofcom should start gathering independent data and establishing trends in the area of online copyright before its formal reporting duties begin, under the Digital Economy Act 2010, when the Code comes into force.
The CoP still has to be debated by both the House of Commons and House of Lords and then Brussels, so is unlikely to come into force until the end of 2013 or start of the following year.
The study's findings
The study of 4,400 people aged 12 years and older found levels on infringement depended on content type, age and sex.
Music remains the most popular content to download illegally, with eight per cent of those surveyed saying they had done this in the past three months. However only two per cent of people surveyed downloaded games or software illegally. Men also tended to be more inclined to illegally download content as do the younger age groups.
Ofcom said the most common reasons cited for accessing content illegally were because it is free (54 per cent), convenient (48 per cent) and quick (44 per cent). Around a quarter (26 per cent) of infringers said it allows them to try before they buy.
The plans under the Digital Economy Act to send warning letters will not have as much effect as cheaper and clearer services would Ofcom's figures show.
If cheaper legal services were available 39 per cent said they would go download from a legal source, with 32 per cent saying they would if they received clearer information.
Only one in six said they would stop if they received one notifying letter from their ISP.
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