“Secret” Illegal Streaming Survey Carries Some Surprises

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The Federation Against Copyright Theft recently published the results of a survey, concluding that after being warned of the "very real risks", 62% of consumers are still unaware of the "hidden dangers" posed by illegal streaming. We obtained some of the data behind this conclusion, and all is not as it seems.

Top SecretFor many years, entertainment industry companies asked pirates “to do the right thing” after considering the effects of unlawful consumption on artists.

More recently, however, there has been a shift towards getting pirates to think of themselves, with stark warnings that piracy is bad for consumers since it exposes them to numerous risks. As a result, there are now many piracy=malware campaigns underway.

FACT Survey – Pirates Warn Friends Not To Pirate

Last week, the UK’s Federation Against Copyright Theft published the results of a new survey, finding that “three out of five people in the UK (62%) are unaware of the hidden dangers of piracy – fraud, identity theft and malware – or its links to criminal gangs.”

We’ll come back to this extremely important 62% later but first, let’s tackle a key finding from the study that piqued our interest.

“Once warned of the wider risks of fraud, identity theft and malware, as well as piracy’s links to criminal gangs, consumers admitted it changed their perceptions of piracy and those behind it. In fact, 39% said they would now advise friends and family against it,” FACT’s summary reads.

Why Did Respondents Change Their Minds So Quickly?

The study was carried out on January 4th and 5th among 1,003 consumers. What’s interesting is that the respondents were given extra information “warning” them of the risks of piracy after their initial answer, which caused some to change their minds when responding to a later question.

What TorrentFreak wanted to know was what those surveyed were told, especially in respect of the claim that pirate apps expose users to fraud and compromise their bank accounts. This claim gets repeated time and again so we have offered, privately and publicly, to name and shame the apps that do this in order to protect people. To date, no anti-piracy group has taken us up on the offer, so the claims persist unchallenged.

So, to get to the bottom of things, we initially approached FACT for information on which apps engage in this type of behavior. We were told that they “don’t have details on any specific software or apps” and this survey was about “behaviors and attitudes of consumers only.”

Initially Denied Access to Survey and Responses

We followed up by asking for a copy of the study questions and responses but were informed that FACT was “not able to share” either. At this point we turned to the company that conducted the survey, UK-based market research company Opinium, which states that it abides by the so-called ESOMAR principles.

“When publishing research findings, researchers must ensure that the public has access to sufficient basic information to assess the quality of the data used and the validity of the conclusions,” the ESOMAR International Code reads.

Via FACT, Opinium then supplied some data pertaining to the study and we were surprised by what we saw. At least in part and in order to influence, the survey put scenarios to respondents that to date have simply never happened in the UK.

The Questions

After those surveyed gave their initial responses, 333 users who had previously consumed pirated content were presented with a list of supposed risks related to the use of illicit streaming services in the UK, to see if they would change their opinion.

First of all they were asked to consider malware and cybersecurity threats, followed by the potential for fraud and putting bank details at risk. As previously mentioned, FACT nor any other anti-piracy group is prepared to explain when or even if this has ever happened. Including the possibility seems likely to have influenced the responses, however.

The respondents were then asked to consider whether illegal streaming would be funding organized crime, “including the Mafia.” The survey doesn’t indicate the ‘Mafia’ is involved in the illicit streaming market in the UK and we have seen no evidence elsewhere to support that. Nevertheless, the suggestion was presented in the survey.

Those surveyed were further asked if they consider getting a fine from “police/regulators” as a risk of illegal streaming. Again, the question is just put out there, despite not a single person in the UK ever having received a fine from either in respect of illegal streaming. People were also asked if receiving a criminal record might be a risk, even though the same applies.

Blacklisting By Internet Service Providers

One of the issues posed to the respondents as a risk of illegal streaming was the prospect of internet disconnections, specifically: “Having your internet connection terminated and being black-listed by internet providers.”

The problem here is that internet service providers in the UK do not disconnect customers based on allegations of illegal streaming and there is no ‘blacklist’ for copyright infringement. However, this statement was put out there to see if respondents would change their opinion and potentially advise friends and family to stay away.

Have You Changed Your Mind About Piracy?

“Does knowing these risks change your opinion of piracy and those who watch pirated content e.g sports matches or films?” all 1,003 respondents were asked. “I would now advise my friends and family against it,” 390 respondents (39%) said.

The notable result here is that a not-insignificant 62% of respondents presented with the list of “threats” disbelieved at least one of the risks presented to them. This was not mentioned by FACT, neither was the detail of any of the supposed threats, including ISP blacklisting.

What FACT did say, however, is that “three out of five people in the UK (62%) are unaware of the hidden dangers of piracy – fraud, identity theft and malware – or its links to criminal gangs.” This doesn’t appear to be true. The 62% figure according to the data obtained by TorrentFreak refers to respondents who “disbelieved at least one risk” out of those highlighted above. That doesn’t make them ignorant.

The statement is also confusing because the data suggest that the 62% only applies to people who previously consumed pirated content, not the entire UK population.

Another Request To Access the Data

It’s important to note that there is nothing inherently wrong with the questions asked in the survey. For example, knowing whether pirates would continue to pirate when faced with Internet disconnection could be valuable information. And, of course, there is always a risk that the police could carry out a prosecution or two.

However, what appears to have happened here is that those who didn’t agree with every scenario put to them were marked down as ill-informed in respect of the “very real risks” of illicit streaming. Given that UK ISPs do not disconnect people for alleged copyright infringement, that appears to be an inaccurate conclusion.

Finally, to be absolutely sure of every piece of data, we asked FACT in a joint email with Opinium to provide the details of the full study. We explained why we were concerned with the results as portrayed and explained why extra information would be useful.

We were informed that Opinium is happy with the way that the survey was conducted and reported. We were then denied access to the data.


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