U.K. report measures impact of P2P

Consumer study looks at evidence in copyright industries

LONDON -- Unauthorized downloading is causing huge economic losses, and that widespread confusion about copyright law in the online world is adding to the problem, according to a U.K. report.

The report, "Copycats? Digital Consumers in the On-line Age," was commissioned by the Strategic Advisory Board for Intellectual Property and conducted by University College London's Center for Information Behaviour and the Evaluation of Research. A PDF of the report is available here.

It examines online consumer behavior in the U.K. and its potential impact on business and government policy, looking at evidence from across the copyright industries and across all age ranges.

It found that on one P2P network at midday on a weekday, there were 1.3 million users sharing content. If each peer from this network downloaded one file per day, the resulting number of downloads -- including music, film, television, e-books, software and games -- would be 4.73 billion items per year. This amounts to about £12 billion ($19.4 billion) in content.

"As SABIP's report shows, illegal downloading robs our economy of millions of pounds every year and seriously damages business and innovation throughout the U.K.," said David Lammy, minister of state for intellectual property. "It is something that needs tackling, and we are serious about doing so.

"However, it is also an international problem that needs an international solution through countries working together. We can't expect 12-year-olds to become copyright lawyers before they can switch on a computer, but we can educate people on enforcement and work towards getting the right people caught and punished -- wherever they live."

SABIP is a nondepartmental public body that provides strategic independent advice to government on intellectual property policy.