72% Of UK Broadband Users Think Piracy Warnings Will Fail

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A new survey of broadband users in the UK suggests a gloomy outlook for the recently launched Copyright Alerts program. Almost three-quarters of respondents felt that the warnings will fail to stop people accessing and sharing copyrighted material, while more than 80% said they had no idea that an anti-piracy system was in place.

This January it was revealed that after much build-up, UK ISPs and the movie and music industries had finally reached a deal to send infringment notices to allegedly pirating subscribers.

The copyright alerts program is part of the larger Creative Content UK (CCUK) initiative, which includes various PR campaigns targeted at the public and classrooms.

The notices themselves (detailed here) are completely non-aggressive, with an aim to educate rather than bully consumers. However, according to a new survey just completed by UK-based broadband comparison website Broadband Genie, progress may be difficult to come by.

The survey involved 2,047 respondents, comprised of both Broadband Genie customers and general Internet users, split roughly 50/50 male and female, the vast majority (94%) aged between 18 and 64 years old. Respondents were asked about the notice scheme and piracy in general.

Overall, a worrying 72% said that they believe that the scheme won’t achieve its aim of stopping people from accessing or sharing copyrighted content.

While ‘stopping’ piracy entirely is a fairly dramatic goal (the program would quietly settle for an all-round reduction), three-quarters of respondents already having no faith in the scheme is significant. So what, if anything, might persuade Internet users to stop pirating content?

Again, the survey offers a pretty bleak outlook. A stubborn 29% believe that nothing can be done, which sounds about right in this context. Worryingly, however, just over a fifth of respondents felt that legal action would do the trick. The same amount (22%) felt that losing a broadband connection might stop the pirates.

While the chart above indicates that a fifth of respondents believe that cheaper content is the solution to fighting piracy, an unbalanced six-out-of-ten agreed that the cost of using genuine sites and services is the main reason why people pirate in the first place.

Surprisingly, just 13% said that easy access to copyrighted content on pirate networks was the main factor, with an even lower 10% citing limited access to genuine content on official platforms. Just 9% blamed delayed release dates for fueling piracy.

Some curious responses are also evident when Broadband Genie asked respondents whether they believed certain activities are illegal. While around three-quarters of respondents said that downloading and/or sharing content without permission is illegal, almost four in ten said that simply using P2P networks such as BitTorrent falls foul of the law.

Of perhaps even greater concern is that 35% identified Spotify, Netflix and Amazon account sharing as an illegal activity. A quarter felt that streaming movies, TV or sports from an unauthorized website is illegal (it probably isn’t) while 11% said that no method of obtaining content without paying for it is against the law.

A final point of worry for Creative Content UK is the visibility of the alerts program itself. Despite boasting a TV appearance, a campaign video on YouTube, some classroom lessons, dozens of news headlines, plus thousands of notices, more than eight-out-of-ten respondents (82%) said that before the survey they had never even heard of the initiative.

Of course, the program is only targeted at the relatively small subset of people who share files but with no data being published by the scheme, it’s difficult to say whether the campaign is reaching its target audience.

That being said, Broadband Genie informs TorrentFreak that 3.5% of respondents (around 70 people) claimed to have received a notice or know someone who had, albeit with certain caveats.

“[N]early half of those said the notice was in error due to incorrect details, their belief that the content or provider was legal or a lack of knowledge about any file sharing having taken place,” the company reports.

This number sounds quite high to us and the company concedes that respondents may have confused the current notice program with earlier ISP correspondence. Nevertheless, notices are definitely going out to subscribers, and people’s social networks are very broad these days. With those variables the figures might hold weight, particularly when considering potential volumes of notices.

The notice system is believed to have launched in the last few days of January and ISPs are reportedly sending around 48,000 notices per week (2.5m notices per year). The survey took place between 17th February and 6th March.

So, if launched at anything like full speed, a maximum of around 250,000 notices could have gone out up until the first week of March. Again, it’s important to note that no hard data is available so it’s impossible to be accurate, but volumes could be quite high.

The full report from Broadband Genie can be found here.

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