International Study Suggests Net Piracy Is Falling

A new report entitled the Global Online Piracy Study has been published by the Amsterdam-based Institute for Information Law (Instituut voor Informatierecht, IViR) in cooperation with research firm Ecorys. Comparing the results to a 2014 survey led the researchers to conclude that piracy had fallen in most of the European countries covered on both occasions. Whilst they determined that the number of pirates had declined, the remaining pirates were consuming more unlawful content than they had before. Overall, the researchers argue that the amount of piracy that occurs is linked to the typical income in each country, subject to people having internet access in the first place.

Almost 35,000 people were surveyed, including 7,000 aged between 14 and 17 years old. The survey was conducted in 13 different countries or territories: Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Thailand and the UK. The researchers asked how people use lawful and unlawful channels to obtain all sorts of copyrighted material including movies, music and books.

IViR and Ecorys had previously performed similar research for the Dutch Government and the European Commission. Piracy had fallen since 2014 in all but one of the European countries surveyed. The exception was Germany, which saw a slight rise in piracy but had the lowest piracy levels in Europe.

Across all the countries surveyed for this report, the most piracy per capita was found in Spain, Canada and Hong Kong. Japan had least piracy overall. Indonesia had low levels of piracy but this was attributed to its low level of internet penetration.

The most common reason for engaging in piracy was the price to be paid for legally available content. Hong Kong was an exception, with pirates saying they were motivated to unlawfully download music or stream films because of convenience.

Though the number of pirates appears to be falling, those who engage in piracy are consuming more unlawful content than before. The two trends largely offset each other. However, piracy is falling relative to sales because lawful consumption has also risen.

Expenditure on content is correlated to income for those earning less than EUR30,000 (USD35,000) per year. Individuals earning more than that will make purchasing decisions more influenced by matters of taste. On the flip side, the extent of piracy within a country is inversely correlated to purchasing power. Countries which enjoy a higher per capita income also have fewer pirates relative to the number of lawful customers. When factoring in per capita wealth, the Spanish, French, Canadians, Swedes and Hong Kong Chinese pirated proportionately more content than the trend line projected for their level of income. The law-abiding Japanese were furthest below that trend line, followed by the Germans. The British, Dutch, Polish and Brazilians were slightly below the trend line.

95 percent of pirates also spend money on legal purchases too. They typically spend well above the average for their country; their median expenditure on legal content is double that of users who never engage in piracy. There is some statistical evidence that unlawful content impacts legal sales of games, books and recorded music. However, adults who engage in piracy are likely to increase their spending on live music. Perhaps the worst impact of piracy is on cinema tickets for blockbuster films. The researchers calculate that piracy may lead to a reduction in blockbuster ticket sales of up to 4.1 percent.

Reviewing the legal situation in each country, the report writers conclude that there are plenty of legal tools standing in opposition to piracy, but their effectiveness is doubtful. They do not believe that stronger rights or enforcement measures would increase revenues for copyright holders, instead arguing that the best approach is to compete with pirate channels by offering legal, cheap and easy ways to obtain content.

This survey was funded by Google. So even whilst the EU is fining Google for billions of dollars it seems they also depend on Google’s generosity to inform (or influence) policy decisions. Google’s reasons for taking an interest in copyright infringement is plain. The European Parliament recently debated, and rejected, changes to the law which would have forced businesses like Google to implement filters that check for copyright infringements when users upload content to sites like YouTube.

The complete Global Online Piracy Study can be downloaded from here.

Eric Priezkalns
Eric Priezkalns
Eric is the Editor of Commsrisk. Look here for more about the history of Commsrisk and the role played by Eric.

Eric is also the Chief Executive of the Risk & Assurance Group (RAG), a global association of professionals working in risk management and business assurance for communications providers.

Previously Eric was Director of Risk Management for Qatar Telecom and he has worked with Cable & Wireless, T‑Mobile, Sky, Worldcom and other telcos. He was lead author of Revenue Assurance: Expert Opinions for Communications Providers, published by CRC Press. He is a qualified chartered accountant, with degrees in information systems, and in mathematics and philosophy.