EUIPO Study: 60% of Pirates Also Buy Content From Legal Sources

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New research published by the European Union Intellectual Property Office reveals that the majority of citizens believe that it's unacceptable to obtain digital content from illegal sources. Of the minority that continue to pirate, 60% also buy content from legal sources. Better affordability and a wider offer are the top cited reasons for people to stop using illegal sources.

euipoThe European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) has published the findings of its 2023 study on ‘European Citizens and Intellectual Property: Perception, Awareness and Behavior.’

The study aims to gain a better understanding of European consumers’ attitudes toward intellectual property and covers physical counterfeit goods and online digital content; our focus here will be on the latter.

Most Europeans Oppose Use of Illegal Content Sources

Given the entertainment industries’ regular and urgent calls to tackle online piracy, the EUIPO study paints a more positive picture in respect of attitudes towards illegal content.

“In general, most Europeans do not support obtaining digital content from illegal sources. The majority disagree with a variety of reasons that are sometimes used to justify this behavior, such as that it is OK if only for personal use (65 % disagree or tend to disagree with this), if the price of the content is too high (72 %), or if the content is not available via a legal source (74 %),” the report notes.


In line with most, if not all, studies in recent years, acceptance of piracy decreases with age. While 19% of citizens aged 55-64, and 18% of those aged 65 and over, believe that its acceptable to access content via illegal sources if the price is too high, acceptance rates jump to 41% and 46% in the 25-34 and 15-24 groups, respectively.

Piracy acceptance rates are also higher in the younger age groups when content isn’t available from legal sources, reaching 44% among 15 to 24-year-olds. However, the majority of Europeans (80%) say that they prefer to obtain content from legal sources, if an affordable legal option is available.

In that respect, a surprising 69% of respondents consider the quality and range of content to be better than that currently available from illegal platforms.

14% of EU Citizens Pirate, But Not Exclusively

The study found that 43% of Europeans paid to access online content from a legal service in the past 12 months. Just 14% admitted to having used illegal sources during the same period but these aren’t all hardcore pirates. Of this group, six in every 10 citizens (60%) also purchased content from legal sources, leaving a small minority overall who only consume content from illegal sources.


Among those who used exclusively legal sources, the main reason cited for not using illegal sources is that the content they want is available on legal platforms (44%), with 40% stating that they prefer not to use illegal platforms because of the harm this could cause to content creators.

Avoidance due to perceived dangers of pirate sites affecting either themselves or someone else was relatively low, 13% and 19%, respectively. Fear of being caught and/or fined was higher at 24%.


Overall, 82% of those surveyed agreed that obtaining content illegally carries a risk of exposure to some kind of harmful content, such as scams or content inappropriate for minors. This belief is held more among those who don’t access content online (85%) than those who do (75%).

Sports Content Popular With Pirates

While 14% of Europeans report that they accessed content from illegal sources in the previous 12 months, one type of content proved to be the biggest draw.

Sports content was obtained from illegal sources by 12% of Europeans, with 11% saying that they used a set-top box or downloaded apps. Once again, the younger the pirate, the more likely they are to access content illegally.

“Accessing content from illegal sources is considerably more common than average among younger Europeans. In the 15-24 age group, 33 % report using illegal online sources intentionally, 27 % say they have streamed content from illegal sources to watch sports, and 25 % say that they have used illicit streaming devices to access content illegally – all more than double the EU average,” the study notes.

Where Europeans Access Illegal Content

Just over four in ten Europeans (43%) who access content illegally online say they do so via dedicated websites. Roughly a third (32%) say they acquire content using social media with just under a quarter mentioning apps (23%). Peer-to-peer networks like BitTorrent and dedicated IPTV services are used less often.


“There are no marked differences between age groups or Member States when it comes to preferred channels,” the study notes.

Uploading, Sharing, Providing Content to Others

In light of the 14% of Europeans who accessed content from unlicensed sources in the preceding 12 months, that 11% overall uploaded/shared content with others seems relatively high.

In common with those who download or stream from illegal platforms, uploading is much more common among younger people. The researchers note that in the 15-24 and 25-34 groups, 25% and 21% uploaded/shared content in the preceding 12 months, a figure that drops to less than 10% among those aged 44 and above.

“There is a very strong correlation between accessing content illegally and making protected content illegally accessible by uploading it: 42 % of those who have also accessed online content from illegal sources have also uploaded protected content, while only 6 % of those who have not accessed content illegally have uploaded protected content,” the researchers add.

Justifications & Reasons to Stop Pirating Content

According to the study, those who access content online using illegal sources are more likely to believe that there are reasons to justify this behavior than those who do not. Leading justifications for accessing content illegally include ‘personal use’ (71%), legal content being too expensive (68%), and the content being unavailable on a legal service already purchased (65%).

“The impact of price and availability of offers is mirrored in the fact that a better affordability of content from legal sources and a larger offer of such are the most important reasons that users of illegal sources would stop using them (for 43 % and 37 % of Europeans, respectively),” the researchers note.

“A better understanding of the harm caused by using pirated content to the content producers or to jobs and the European economy (22 % and 21 %, respectively) are much less likely to keep people from using illegal sources.”

The full report is available here here (pdf)


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