Illegal UK film downloads up 30%, new figures suggest

The number of illegally downloaded films in the UK has gone up nearly 30% in five years, new figures suggest.

That research, from internet consultancy firm Envisional, indicates that the top five box office movies were illegally downloaded in the UK a total of 1.4 million times last year.

Film industry bosses say it is costing £170m every year and putting thousands of jobs at risk.

The research also shows a big rise in TV shows being pirated online.

Dr David Price led the the team which conducted the research and said there are four main reasons for the increase.

Graph showing increase in illegal downloads

"We've seen increases in technology like faster broadband," he said.

"The methods of piracy have become easier, with quicker downloads and easier to find content.

"We have a generation online now who aren't really bothered about downloading things illegally.

"Finally it's an issue of availability - there's a lot of American content which a lot of people are desperate to download that they can't get hold of legitimately."

It's people like Steve, who's 25 and from Essex, that the film industry says are the biggest threat to its future survival and success.

He illegally downloads and uploads around 10 films per week.

"I think in comparison to the money they make it's a drop in the ocean," he said.

'Creating jobs'

"Also, what I'm actually doing is providing people with new jobs.

"With all these ISPs that are producing super fast broadband we [illegal downloaders] are actually helping create those jobs," he added.

But movie industry bosses rubbish such claims.

Kieron Sharp works for the Federation Against Copyright Theft or FACT.

"Research for the government has shown that film piracy costs the industry about half a billion pounds a year," he said.

"About a third of that is due to illegal downloading of film and TV content.

"Clearly that is unacceptable."

'Big demand'

But it's not just illegal film downloading that's on the rise - research suggests people are illegally downloading more TV shows too.

The top five most popular shows were illegally downloaded a total of 1.24 million times in the UK last year.

That's a 33% increase from 2006 figures.

"We have a big demand in this country for north American TV shows in particular," Dr Price said.

"Shows like Glee and House are heavily illegally downloaded in the UK.

"We're very eager to get the television shows as soon as they get broadcast in the US.

"But we often have to wait for one month or two months for those shows to be shown legitimately in the UK.

"So people naturally turn to the internet to get that content as soon as they possibly can."

As for a solution, Dr Price says one of the best ideas available to content producers is a controversial one.

"They need to compete with piracy and get their content out there themselves as easily and as quickly and as cheaply as possible," he said.

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