Seven million people estimated to use illegal sites

Seven million people in the UK regularly download copyrighted files illegally, costing the economy around £12 billion, according to new government statistics released today (May 29).

The figures come as part of a new report entitled ‘Copycats? Digital Consumers In The Online Age’, commissioned by advisory committee The Strategy Advisory Board For Intellectual Property.

The report blames “widespread confusion about copyright law in the online world” for the high level of illegal downloading activity.

David Lammy, the Minister Of State For Intellectual Property said in a statement: “As SABIP‘s report shows, illegal downloading robs our economy of millions of pounds every year and seriously damages business and innovation throughout the UK.

“It is something that needs tackling, and we are serious about doing so.

He added that the organisation was looking toards educating people about copyright laws to reduce illegal behaviour in the future.

“We can’t expect 12 year-olds to become copyright lawyers before they can switch on a computer,” he said. “But we can educate people on enforcement and work towards getting the right people caught and punished wherever they live.”

The authors of the report found that on one un-named peer-to-peer network at midday (BST) on a weekday, there were 1.3 million users illegally sharing content on the site.

Using the figure to make an estimation of how such activity affects the economy, researched assumed that each “peer” from the network (not the largest) downloaded one file per day the resulting number of downloads would be 4.73 billion items per year.

This amounts to around £12 billion of content being consumed each year for free.