75% of Germans support fines for pirate sites

Three in every four German citizens agree that people who offer copyrighted media content online to others without permission should be fined, according to a new survey.

New GFK research, polled from over 100,000 people, shows that more than half the German population (53 percent) went even further – endorsing fines for the people individually downloading media content illegally.

57 percent of Germans believe that pirates would discontinue their copyright-infringing activities upon receiving a warning from their internet service provider.

These are key findings of the survey on digital content usage 2012 (DCN Survey), presented today in Berlin by the Bundesverband Musikindustrie e. V. (BVMI – the German national group of the IFPI), the German book trade association and the German Federation against Copyright Theft (GVU).

The second round of the survey clearly shows that more and more Germans are acquiring music, movies, TV series, e-books and audiobooks directly from the internet.

Well over two thirds of the population feel that the legal online range of music (81 percent), e-books (72 percent) and video content (69 percent) on offer is sufficient. There has been a clear shift regarding the preferred technologies: besides traditional downloads, streaming sites are increasingly being used. But people very rarely use online storage space, including the legal options offered by sharehosters, for personal media storage.

According to the present DCN survey, in 2011 a total of 22.1 million people used music, films, TV series, e-books and audiobooks online or downloaded them from the internet.

This represents an 11-percent increase since the previous year. 14.8 million people stream this kind of media content. 31 percent of respondents indicated they streamed audiobooks more often than last year; among online music users the figure was 40 percent; 41 percent among movie consumers; and a whopping 47 percent among fans of TV series. 7.9 million people indicated that video streaming platforms like YouTube are their preferred streaming source, while 6.1 million onliners most frequently visit online radios and/or online media libraries. Illegal streaming portals were the primary source for 41 percent of online film consumers. With 2.5 million users, this category is the No. 3 most popular source for all streamed media content.

GVU Managing Director Dr. Matthias Leonardy said: “The survey clearly shows that the willingness to pay for high-quality content on the internet is still underdeveloped. This freebie mentality is one of the major reasons for the enormous visitor numbers on illegal streaming portals like kino.to. Although many consumers realise that these sites are illegal, that doesn’t stop them from using them – apparently because they don’t take seriously what they are doing to the creative industries in the process.”

The GVU’s Managing Director added that rights owners have for some time been demanding the implementation of a warning scheme for these users. The model should be technology-neutral because: “Copyright infringement is not limited to certain technologies like file-sharing. Rather the idea should be to make it clear to everyone who illegally uses content online – regardless of the technology used – that they are not only participating in something illegal. They are also lining the pockets of the illegal exploiters while leaving the creative professionals empty-handed.”

Last year 16.3 million people downloaded-to-own media content from the Net. 7.2 million people, or 44 percent of these downloaders, procured the content entirely from legal sources.

3.1 million Germans illegally downloaded copyrighted music, books, movies or TV series from the internet. That corresponds to about one in five downloaders of media content. Alongside illegal downloads, streamripping has become firmly established as another form of usage in the legal grey zone: nearly half of all downloaders used streamripping in 2011. In all, last year 3.7 million Germans (23 percent of media downloaders) use no legal sites, but only illegal sources or streamrippers to save the desired content.

Dr. Florian Drücke, Managing Director of the BVMI, said: “We are delighted that legal use of media content on the internet continues to increase and the diversification of the legal range is bearing fruit. This makes it all the more painful that people are massively helping themselves to free content via streamripping services. Especially in the case of commercial providers, many people don’t realise that neither creatives nor their partners participate in the income generated by these services. We have long been demanding that the term ‘private copies’ should stop being stretched in this way.”

Almost the entire population (97 percent) realises that downloading or offering copyrighted media content on P2P networks is not allowed, according to the survey. This is also the case for the absolute majority – 88 percent – of people who actively use illegal download sources. And while nearly one in four Germans thought watching the latest blockbusters via sites like kino.to and movie2k was legal in 2010, only 11 percent held this belief in 2011.

The illegality of making copyrighted media content available in the public domain is also common knowledge. Only between two and seven percent of respondents still think this is permissible. However, a detailed analysis reveals gaping differences between the different user groups: compared with the average population, up to seven times as many users of illegal download sites are not aware of the illegality of these sources. The share of those who think that offering music, cinematic content, audiobooks and e-books on social networks is allowed is highest among 10- to 19-year-olds (21 percent).

Asked to name the advantages of paid online services, 70 percent of the population indicated that using them supports the artists / originators / authors. Among those who help themselves to illegal sources, the proportion was well below the average at 55 percent.

Alexander Skipis, Chief Executive of the Börsenverein, said: “Large-scale awareness building campaigns targeted at the masses don’t solve the problem of illegal downloading. People who download media content from the Net usually know what is legal or illegal, and that using legal sites supports artists and creative professionals. So the survey results confirm what we advocate: the warnings scheme allows for taking individual and more purposeful action, instead of incriminating the whole society.”

The DCN Survey carried out by GfK was jointly commissioned by Bundesverband Musikindustrie (BVMI), the German book trade association and the German Federation against Copyright Theft (GVU) with the aim of analysing user habits and preferences regarding the consumption, storage and sharing of digital media; as well as gauging consumer attitudes regarding copyright infringements, sanctions and legal online offerings.

The survey was carried out among 10,000 people in the GfK Media*Scope, who stand representative of 63.6 million Germans aged 10 and older. To validate its findings, another survey was conducted among 3,000 people representative of 46.0 million ‘online’ Germans aged 14 and older.

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