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Ofcom: Almost a quarter of all UK downloads and media streams illegal

Almost a quarter of all media - over 1.5 billion files - consumed online in the last year was accessed illegally, a new report by Ofcom has found.

Around 17 per cent of Internet users streamed or downloaded pirated films, music, games or books in the period, with the proportion growing to around a third - 29 per cent - when only those who use the Internet to access media are considered.

58 per cent of UK internet users said they downloaded or streamed (legally or illegally) at least one item of content in the past year.

Music was the most infringed type of media, whilst relative to consumption, film took the lead, with 35 per cent of all films watched online being accessed through illegal streams.

However the data also shows that the top two per cent of infringers downloaded or streamed three quarters of all the material accessed illegally.

Furthermore, Kantar Media, which carried out the survey for Ofcom, estimates that, on average, the top 10 per cent of film infringers consumed 80 illegal films over a three month period, equating to almost one per day.

Interestingly, those who accessed media illegally, claimed to spend more on legal downloads than those who did not. During an average three-month period, infringers were found to spend £26, whilst those who did not spent just £16.

Males aged 16-34 were found to be the top infringers. Kantar Media processed 21,475 responses to four surveys about online media consumption between May 2012 - May 2013 to carry out the research.

Across all types of infringer, the most commonly given reasons for infringing copyright online were because 'it's free', 'it's easy/convenient' and 'it's quick'.

However, there were significant differences between infringer groups; the highest volume infringers were more likely to say they already spend enough on content' (19 per cent for the top 10 per cent infringers vs. 7 per cent among the bottom 80 per cent); that 'legal content is too expensive' (38 per cent vs. 13 per cent); that they didn't want to wait for content to become available on legal services (19 per cent vs. 8 per cent); and that 'the industry makes too much money' (19 per cent vs. 8 per cent).