A survey of 1,100 UK internet users has revealed that they are more likely to use after-sale services such as Netflix than to access the wider internet, a finding that may surprise some.
The survey, carried out by online retailer eBay and the University of Edinburgh, found that of the 1,010 people who took part in the survey, only 29% of people were aware of internet pirate activity.
However, only 16% said they had experienced any piracy.
“While some people may think of piracy as a negative thing, there is evidence that piracy is a very positive thing for the economy and society,” says Professor Simon Hsieh, from the University’s Department of Computer Science.
“The internet is an extremely important part of the global economy and there are a lot of people using it to do things such as buy books, buy music, and make money online.”
The survey also revealed that people are more often searching for pirated content online, with 69% of respondents reporting that they searched for pirate content on the internet in the week before the survey.
Piracy, the use of pirated material on the web, is increasing “because people have a very poor knowledge of the legal implications of the use they are making of the internet”, Professor Hsieah said.
“We’re not just looking at piracy.
We’re looking at the whole phenomenon of using the internet for things that would be legal in a normal country, such as buying books.”
The online survey, conducted by eBay in partnership with the University, found online pirates used internet after-shares and search engines more than anyone else.
“For example, online users who search for pirates tend to search for other sites that have links to their pirated copies,” said Professor Hieh.
“And so they search for the websites where the pirated version was found, which is the same sites that people search for online when they search with their search engines.”
While internet pirates tend to use sites such as eBay to find pirated materials, other sites such the popular movie torrent site The Pirate Bay also serve as sites for the UK’s largest torrent site.
The UK’s overall piracy rate is also high, with about 20% of internet users reporting having experienced pirated files on their computer.
“It’s quite easy for people to find and download pirated movies and TV shows online, and this makes it very easy for the people doing it,” Professor Hiesh said.
He explained that although piracy is an important problem, there was no easy solution.
“There are a number of different things that you can do to help people.
One is to tell them what they’re doing is illegal and then to try and persuade them to change their behaviour,” he said.
The study also found that there is a gap in knowledge about the legal ramifications of pirating.
Only 16% of those who responded to the survey knew how to tell if they were guilty of piracy.
However this could be because many people have not actually been convicted of piracy, and there is no legal way for someone to be found guilty of a crime when their activity is not illegal.
In fact, there are few legal options for people found guilty by a court.
The Pirate Party’s chairman, Tim Berners-Lee, told the BBC that there are plenty of people in the world who are still in jail for a minor infringement offence.
“I’m not aware of a single case of a person who has been convicted for copyright infringement who’s been released and given parole,” he added.
“So there is not a huge gap in terms of the number of people who are in prison, but there are people in prison and they’re still out there doing it.”
The study found that internet pirates are using a wide range of sites to download pirates.
However there were significant differences between the sites they accessed, with some being more popular than others.
The most popular sites were torrent sites such with BitTorrent and Usenet, while the next most popular were file sharing sites such Tor.
Pirate Bay, one of the most popular torrent sites, had over half of all users using BitTorrent.
“If you look at the most-used torrent sites in the top 10, Tor, you’ll find Tor has over 80% of the torrent users,” Professor Berners