Online content study

14 March 2016

Ofcom seeks to maintain a thorough understanding of the effect of technological developments and innovation in the communications sector. As part of this we commissioned an independent report from IDATE Consulting on recent developments in the: distribution, discovery and consumption of lawful and unauthorised online content. Unauthorised, illegal and/or pirated content in the context of this report relates to copyright infringing content.

We have a particular interest in this area as online piracy can present a potential barrier to growth and innovation by the creative industries and to wider investment in broadband delivery infrastructure.

The shift away from physical media to online distribution is transforming the way that content is being consumed and monetised. This report looks at the emerging trends in the online distribution of both lawful and unauthorised content for different content types - music, film/video, e-books, video games and software.

Despite the challenges associated with identifying and separating unauthorised content piracy from lawful online content consumption the report highlights the following key trends:

  • Over the next three years online copyright infringement is predicted to fall for all content types apart from e-books.
  • The use of ‘peer-to-peer’ (P2P) file downloading to access unauthorised content continues to decline and is being replaced by content streaming. Social media sites are increasingly being used to identify sources of this content.
  • Content streaming services are making it easier for consumers to access legitimate online content on a wider range of devices.

Full report

Online Content Study: Changes in the distribution, discovery and consumption of lawful and unauthorised online content (PDF, 2.9 MB)