Piracy crackdown is proving tough, with infringement levels not dropping

The crackdown on piracy is proving difficult, the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) has admitted. Its recently released Online Copyright Infringement Tracker report shows that copyright infringement levels have remained constant over the past three years.

This year, 27% of respondents saying they’d accessed at least one item of online content − either music, TV, film, sport, eBooks, video games or computer software − illegally within the “past three months”.

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In 2017 and 2016, that figure was 25%, though back then the annual report didn’t take into account sports content. Without the inclusion of sports, the overall 2018 figure would have been 25%.

Speaking at the July 2018 Westminster Media Forum, the IPO’s head of external communications, Nic Fearon-Low, conceded that anti-piracy efforts don’t always have much of an impact.

“Our research tells us that our target audiences don’t respond to threats, and don’t like being told that they’re breaking the law. This often hardens their attitudes and behaviours,” he said.

“The number of government campaigns that have successfully changed behaviour on a large scale are probably countable on one hand.

“So what are our choices? Do we go for a hard-hitting approach or do we go for more subtle engagement? In reality, of course, we try a mix of both.”

Fearon-Low explained that the scale of the problem, and a general perception of the IPO being “out of touch” makes the agency’s job particularly hard.

“The vast majority of people simply don’t understand [copyright law], how it works or care about it,” he said, adding: “At the heart of our approach is the need to take the legal jargon out of IP, out of the equation, and to make it an issue about respect. Respect for the creative process, respect for the civil process, and rewarding hard work.”

Fearon-Low also stressed the importance of education, but said that despite being “consistently lobbied” to put IP on the curriculum, that isn’t something the IPO is considering because it is “neither practical nor realistic”.

Instead, he said, the IPO has focused on creating a “wide range of teaching systems on IP”, which are “aligned to the existing core elements of the national curriculum”.

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Fearon-Low added that the IPO is open to new ideas and collaborations with partners, and said that a “short, very focused” campaign it recently worked on with Crimestoppers, highlighting some of the risks involved in using illicit streaming devices like “fully loaded” Kodi boxes, gained more than 18 million ad impressions, with the videos produced as part of the campaign were viewed over 1.3 million times.

“Infringement levels are down 7% for 16-24-year-olds since 2015, and there’s been a 5% decrease in the use of illegal services since 2013,” he added.

“This is behavioural change we’re aiming at, and behavioural change on a massive scale.”

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