Are There Really 1.67 million Illegal Movie Downloaders in the UK?

The British Video Association (BVA) has surveyed 16,000 people between 12 and 74 and extrapolated that there are 1.67 million illegal film downloaders in the UK, as they believe that 4% of the population are indulging in the practice.

We think this gives an inaccurate picture. The entire population doesn’t have internet access, and downloading all of Kill Bill Volume 1 on a dialup is frankly insane, limiting this kind of piracy to broadband subscribers. Ofcom estimates that there are around 4 million broadband homes out there – so perhaps 4% of them are downloading, making it roughly 160,000 pirates (which we feel is more accurate), or perhaps 25% of broadband subscribers are pirates (which we doubt).

The BVA goes on to estimate that this downloaders cost the video industry £45 million (€) in lost revenue. A quick calculation on the back of an HP48 shows that this is roughly two full price DVDs per downloader – yet the BVA goes on to say that the average downloader grabs some 30 films and TV episodes a year. Since many downloaders like to collect and share files for kudos, we suspect the picture in the UK is of around 160,000 pirates downloading 30 films.

Interestingly, according to the survey, the average downloader is under 35, male, and lives in the south of England – presumably because broadband is more prevalent there and not because they’re more prone to thieving.

The BVA’s report

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Fraser Lovatt

Fraser Lovatt has spent the last fifteen years working in publishing, TV and the Internet in various capacities, and believes that they will be seperate platforms for at least a while yet. His main interests at the moment are exploring where Linux is taking home entertainment and how technology is conferring technical skills on more and more people. Fraser Lovatt was born in the same year that 2001: A Space Odyssey was delighting and confusing people in the cinemas, and developed a lifelong love of technology as soon as he realised that things could be taken apart, sometimes put back together again, but mostly left in bits or made into something the original designer hadn't quite planned upon. At school he was definitely in the ZX Spectrum/Magpie/BMX camp, rather than the BBC Micro/Blue Peter/well-behaved group. This is all deeply ironic as he later went on to spend nine years working at the BBC. After a few years of working as a bookseller in Scotland, ("Back when it was actually a skilled profession" he'll tell anyone still listening), he moved to England for reasons he can't quite explain adequately to himself. After a couple of publishing jobs punctuated by sporadic bursts of travelling and photography came the aforementioned nine years at the BBC where he specialised in internet technologies and video. These days his primary interests are Java, Linux, videogames and pies - and if they're not candidates for convergence, then what is?