Five per cent of digital consumers say they always access content illegally, says survey

A $95,000 survey for the federal government found that about one in 10 Canadians who consume content digitally said they had received a notice of alleged copyright infringement from their internet service provider. One-quarter said they then abandoned their digital piracy - while another quarter said they ignored the notice.

Polling for review of Copyright Act finds three-quarters of digital consumers say they respect copyright

Most Canadians claim never to pirate digital content, suggests a new federally-commissioned survey. (CBC)

Three-quarters of Canadians who access music, TV, movies and other content online claim to only do so legally, while a solid five per cent claim they consume all of their online content illegally, a new survey on digital copyright infringement suggests.

The figures come from a federally-commissioned survey of 3,301 Canadians over the age of 12, carried out last November. Most of the remaining Canadians surveyed claim they only occasionally access content illegally.

Two federal departments – Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) and Canadian Heritage – ordered the $95,000 research partly to inform a mandatory five-year review of the Copyright Act, now being carried out by a House of Commons committee.

The November 2017 survey of more than 3,000 Canadians found that about a quarter acknowledged at least one act of digital piracy in the previous three months. (Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

The firm Kantar TNS polled its large online panel, supplemented by 253 telephone interviews of Canadians 65 years of age and older, to find out how often and why Canadians are pirating digital content. Results were posted on the web this week.

About half of the consumers surveyed who acknowledged getting some of their digital content illegally said they do it because it's free. Forty per cent said the convenience of illegal access is a big motivation.

Of those who claimed to pay for their digital content, only a third said they do so because they want to avoid illegal downloads and streaming. Convenience was cited by almost half as a primary motivation.

One quarter ignore copyright warnings

One in 10 Canadians surveyed said they've received a notice of alleged copyright infringement from their internet service provider (ISP) through a government-implemented system that came into effect in 2015. The copyright owner who believes content has been stolen initiates the process.

The notices have rattled some consumers, especially when they come with the threat of penalties. The Kantar TNS survey found about a quarter of respondents who received such notices ignored them, while another quarter stopped their illegal downloading or streaming in response.

The broad-ranging survey also compared the behaviour of Canadian digital consumers to those in Australia and Great Britain. The research found Canada and Britain comparable, with about a quarter in each country acknowledging at least one act of digital piracy over the last three months, while 38 per cent of Australians admitted to doing so.

The survey, commissioned by two federal departments, was intended in part to inform a House of Commons committee, which is examining ways to update the Copyright Act. (Darren Bernhardt/CBC)

The survey also found that digital copyright infringement crossed many demographic lines, including gender, region, rural/urban, language and employment status. But piracy did occur more frequently among the young and – perhaps paradoxically – among individuals with household incomes of $100,000 and more.

Eleven per cent of those surveyed reported using "stream-ripping" — capturing streamed content from YouTube, Spotify and other web services as a digital file, which can then be stored on a hard drive or other device, an act that often violates copyright.

"Relative to total internet users, users of stream-ripping are more likely to be male (62%) and are predominantly 18 to 34 (52%) years of age," the study found.


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