5 August 2020CopyrightRory O'Neill

No COVID-19 spike in digital piracy, UKIPO report reveals

Levels of illegal piracy have remained largely consistent in the UK during the COVID-19 lockdown, despite an increase in the consumption of digital content, new research has shown.

The  findings were published today, August 5, by the Policy & Evidence Centre (PEC), and co-funded by the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO).

According to the study, which looks at six consecutive weeks from April through May, the increased consumption of online content has been mostly via legal means.

That news will be welcomed by copyright owners, after initial fears that the lockdown would fuel an increase in digital piracy.

The UK Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) revealed in May that illegal streaming links had “ trebled” during the opening weeks of the UK’s national lockdown (which began on March 23).

That largely chimes with the data outlined in the new PEC report, which says that “levels of infringement were highest in week 1”. But despite FACT’s concerns over an “inevitable” increase in piracy during the lockdown, PEC estimates that the levels of infringement have since declined.

In particular, the illegal streaming of TV and film has declined by 8% and 3% since before the lockdown began, the report claims.

This has been helped by the introduction of “affordable and family subscription options” for digital streaming services, it added.

Streaming services appear to be weathering the pandemic better than many other sectors. Disney CEO Bob Chapek revealed yesterday that the company’s new Disney+ streaming service had racked up 60 million subscribers since its launch last November.

And in April,  The New York Times reported that a record 15.7 million signed up to Netflix in the first three months of 2020.

Two sectors where PEC saw an increase in piracy were music downloading and video games, with illegal access rising by 3% and 6%.

“The IPO is investing a significant amount of resources into research on online copyright infringement,” said Ros Lynch, director of copyright at the IPO.

“Timely, robust and accessible data like this is an invaluable resource that helps government and businesses better understand consumer consumption of digital culture and entertainment, and how interventions work,” Lynch added

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