UK consumers are streaming more content legally
The UK government says that consumers are accessing more online content legally, and many consumers would stop pirating content if it were available legally and cheaply iStock

In an unusual turn of events, the UK's Intellectual Property Office (IPO) says that British consumers are actually consuming more of their content legally rather than turning to online piracy.

The new survey found that use of legal downloading and movie streaming services have gone up by over 10% since 2013 – however the IPO pointed out that one in five consumers are still accessing content illegally.

Currently, 62% of all internet users in the UK are now downloading or streaming music, movies, TV shows, computer software, ebooks or video games over the internet, which is up from 56% in 2013.

Netflix, YouTube and BBC iPlayer winning streaming race

A total of 10 million users are accessing films online, with Netflix, Amazon and YouTube being the top platforms for watching video content, and 44% of all streaming of content in the UK is now from Netflix, while 25% of users are still illegally streaming or downloading movies.

TV has an even bigger viewership, with 15 million users accessing TV shows online. BBC iPlayer, YouTube and ITV Player are the most popular platforms for accessing television programmes, with BBC iPlayer in the lead with 62% of all activity, while 21% of users downloading TV content or streaming it illegally.

Music still sees the greatest amount of piracy with 26% of all users downloading tracks illegally. A total of 12 million users streamed music in total, while 10.5 million users downloaded music, and people between the age of 16-24 were most active in downloading music.

YouTube, Amazon and Spotify are the top platforms used to download and stream music, and 54% of all music streams and downloads came from YouTube.

Consumers would stop piracy if legal options were cheaper

Interestingly, the respondents said that they would be happy to stop accessing pirated content if there were cheaper legal services available (25%) and if all of the content they wanted was available legally (21%).

This is not a surprising finding as it echoes the increasing mountains of complaints users have made online over geographical restrictions since Netflix began cracking down on VPN cheats in January 2015.

UK consumers reported an average quarterly spend of £6.68 ($9.36) for TV programmes, and £20.28 for music.

However, only 52% of the respondents were confident that they understood what content is legal and what content is illegal on the internet, and only 14% of those who consumed illegal content exclusively stated that nothing would ever encourage them to stop.

Consumers not scared by warnings

When it came to receiving warnings, only 11% of respondents would be put off illegally downloading content if they received a letter from their ISP telling them that their account had been used to infringe copyright. About 15% of respondents would be put off if their ISP threatened to suspend their internet access, and only 10% would be concerned if their ISP threated to restrict their internet speed.

The UK government says that it has so far provided £3.1m to fund a nationwide education campaign designed to inform consumers how they can access content legally, as well as spending £5.56m on funding the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit up until 2017 to investigate and tackle copyright infringement.

The IPO also stressed that it is now working with the European Commission and the entertainment industry to find better ways to make content available for purchase across borders, which would negate the need to cheat geographical restrictions using VPNs or pirate content outright.