Ofcom research into online infringement

We haven’t had time to analyse the report (PDF) in full, but a few things stood out. They say in the key findings:

  • The Top 10% Infringers accounted for just 1.6% of the 12+ internet user population, but were responsible for 79% of infringed content. The Top 20% infringers, accounting for 3.2% of 12+ internet users, were responsible for 88% of infringements.
  • Infringers were more male, 16-34 and ABC1 than the general internet population. However, the Top 20% Infringers were even more likely to be male and 16-34 than the Bottom 80%. (We used the Top 20% Infringers rather than the Top 10% Infringers as the larger sample size makes comparisons more robust).
  • Despite their high levels of infringement, the Top 20% Infringers also accounted for 11% of the legal content consumed.
  • The Top 20% Infringers also spent significantly more across all content types on average than either the Bottom 80% Infringers or the non-infringing consumers (£168 vs. £105 vs. £54 over the six month period covered).

They go on to add:

Generally, the data from the survey showed that as people consumed more infringed files they also consumed more legal files, and spent more on legal content.

  • Further assessment on price-sensitivity for music showed that the optimum price infringers were willing to pay (either for single downloadable tracks, or for particular premium subscriptions) generally increased as the volume of infringed content increased. (Although the optimum subscription price was below that currently charged for the first premium tier of a number of UK music streaming services, many also offer free versions, albeit with some service restrictions or limitations).
  • This optimum music price was mapped alongside banded illegal consumption in order to estimate potential additional monthly spend (lost revenue) if all infringed content was paid for at this price.
  • The data suggest that improvements to legal alternatives could potentially convert some music infringers to pay for their content (either by track or monthly) if the price was right. However, the relationship between infringement and spend is complex and the claims people make when asked questions about their likely future behaviour given changes to their options do not always closely reflect their real-life behaviour.

This is interesting, because it does rather point towards the increasingly understood relationship between supply and demand as being a key driver for infringement, rather than the claims of “morality” and lack of punishments that drove the Digital Economy Act, for instance.

The report tries to show how effective letter writing might be, and with what types of behaviour; but it is clear that letters, even threatening ones, look far less effective than market changes, such as better or cheaper services.

Ofcom are the body charged with implementing the Act and overseeing the sending of letters as the basis for legal actions by rights holders.

We’ll be looking at the report in more detail, of course.