Online piracy is the result of over-priced downloads, poor pricing and quality issues, according to a new report from online campaigning organisation the Open Rights Group.
Criticising a recent injunction obtained by the film industry, requiring internet service provider BT to block access to the site Newzbin2, the ORG claims many consumers turn to illegal file-sharing because of the bad deal they get from film and music distributors - and that this issue must be addressed before legislators turn to draconian measures such as the controversial 'three strikes' internet disconnection rule advocated by controversial anti-piracy treaty ACTA.
"More attention needs to be paid to how well the markets for films and music are serving consumers before we assume that certain kinds of enforcement measures are necessary and proportionate," says the report. " We want to see thriving and innovative cultural markets that help creators and consumers get the best out of new technology. "
Analysing a list of 50 critically acclaimed British films, the ORG found that while nearly all of the titles could be bought on DVD, just 43 per cent of them were legitimately available to buy or rent online.
Pricing, too, is a problem, says the While the average price of the best selling DVDs in August 2011, when the survey was conducted, was £6.80, the equivalent price for downloads on iTunes was £8.88. Rival blinkbox averaged an even higher price of £9.49.
The ORG also aimed its fire at quality, finding that the average download fell short of standard DVD resolution - though it conceded that the quality of streaming services was in part dictated by issues such as bandwidth.
The report labels the trade in movie downloads "a patchy market place that serves fewer films at equal or higher prices to the DVD market", offering a "poorer selection, higher prices and lower quality than the physical media market".
These problems, say the ORG, are the result not only of "myriad rights deals and varyingly compatible technical standards", but also a continuing lack of willingness by the entertainment industry to engage with digital markets.
The group calls on the UK government to address these problems through legislation, endorsing a number of the proposals of May's Hargreaves Report on Intellectual Property, including the creation of a 'Digital Rights Exchange' as a centralised clearing house for online rights.
Internet service providers in the UK, who have sought to resist being dragged into enforcing anti-piracy measures, have welcomed the report's findings.
In a statement, Nicholas Lansman, the secretary general of the UK's Internet Service Provider Association (ISPA), said: "ISPA welcomes research into the causes of copyright infringement and potential methods for increasing the revenues of rights holders. As the research shows, there should be more emphasis on ensuring content is available at a fair price and less emphasis on enforcement. There is also the serious problem of licensing content for online providers which is causing the market to work ineffectively. ISPA would urge government to take this into consideration if implementing aspects of the Digital Economy Act."