One of the hypotheses put forward in a study on digital piracy recently published by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) looks at the relationship between attitudes towards piracy and the consumption of illegal TV, film, music, software and publishing content in EU countries and the UK. According to this hypothesis, there is a relationship between attitudes towards piracy and the amount of pirated content consumed.

The study on online copyright infringement in the European Union drew on, among other things, the Intellectual Property Perceptions Study published by the Office this summer to examine the state and evolution of digital piracy. The study is a follow-up to a previous study from 2017 and 2020. The main objective of the study was to gather insights into European consumers’ attitudes towards intellectual property (IP), the extent to which they respect IP rights and their perceptions of IP as a whole. The question “To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements? - Is it acceptable to obtain digital content illegally from the Internet or from apps if it is for my personal use?”

Attitudes towards pirated online content

Most Europeans generally find access to content from illegal online sources unacceptable. More than 7 in 10 Europeans do not think it is acceptable to use illegal sources if:

  • the content they are looking for is not available within their streaming subscription (74%),
  • they save money by doing so (73%),
  • the price of protected content is too high (72%).

At first glance, these figures are positive. But seen the other way round, it means that, for example, one in three Europeans still find it acceptable to buy illegal goods if the original product is too expensive. For younger consumers aged 15-24, this is the case for half of the respondents (50%). Acceptance of illegal behaviour online is significantly higher among younger Europeans compared to older ones.

Moreover, around a third (34%) of Europeans agree that it is acceptable to obtain digital content illegally if it is for personal use.

The level of acceptance varies from country to country. For example, the proportion of people who consider illegal retrieval of content from the internet (for personal consumption) to be completely or rather acceptable ranges from 24% (Denmark) to 58% (Slovakia). Apart from Slovakia, this statement has (slight) majority support in Slovenia (56%), Hungary (54%), Bulgaria (51%) and Latvia (51%). The Czech Republic is among the countries where the level of acceptance of the use of pirated content for personal consumption is relatively high at 48%.

Those who have committed infringement have a more benevolent attitude

The study also found that people who have deliberately accessed online content through illegal sources in the last 12 months are much more likely to believe there are reasons to justify this behaviour than those who have not.
The proportion of people who admit that they have consumed pirated content online in the last 12 months also varies widely between countries, ranging from 9% in Finland and Germany to 22% in Malta. The Czech Republic is roughly in the middle of the ranking with 16%.

Intentional illicit access to online sources by country; Source: EUIPO

Profile of intentional users of pirated content

According to the study, the majority of people illegally using copyrighted content are men (17%), with women doing slightly better (12%). In terms of age, younger Europeans are significantly more prevalent (15-24 year olds 33%, 25-34 year olds 25%, 35-44 year olds 19%, 45-54 year olds 10%, 55-64 year olds 6% and people over 65 only 4%).

In terms of education, illegal content is consumed most by people with low education (18%). Illegal content is consumed more in large cities and most often by students (31%) and least often by housewives (9%).

Reasons not to use illegal online sources: price and availability of content

Concerns about exposure to harmful practices such as fraud or inappropriate content for minors may also be a reason for not using illegal sources. More than 8 out of 10 Europeans (82%) agree that illegally obtaining online content carries a risk of exposure to such practices. This view is shared by a clear majority - regardless of whether or not they accessed the content through illegal sources.

Reasons to stop using online pirated content; Source: EUIPO

Price plays a major role in motivating users to use illegal sources, as does the quality of content available from legal sources. The most frequently cited reasons that would make respondents stop using illegal sources would be better affordability of content from legal sources (43%) and greater availability of content of interest to them through legal sources (37%).

Intellectual property perceptions

A clear majority of Europeans say they have a good understanding of the concept of intellectual property and agree that it is important to respect intellectual property in order to protect the rights and revenues of producers of goods and content, as well as the quality of their products.
93% of Europeans also agree that it is important that inventors, publishers, creators and performers can protect their rights and be paid for their work.

Similarly, the majority (91%) consider it important to respect intellectual property so that others cannot falsely claim to be the creators or inventors of something that is not their work.
While awareness of the importance of IP protection is high, few Europeans think that consumers such as themselves are the main beneficiaries of IP protection (8%). Conversely, more than half think that performers such as musicians (54%) and creators of artistic content (52%) are the main beneficiaries of IP protection.

For the time being, most Europeans also consider the quality and variety of content offered through legal sources to be better than that available through illegal solutions.
However, 60% of those who have deliberately accessed online content through pirate sources in the last year report that it is easier to find and access the digital content they want through illegal channels than through legal services.