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How much illegal streaming and downloading is going on in the European Union? A report on film-watching habits released last week by the European Commission suggests that it’s quite a lot. 4,608 people ages 4 to 50 from 10 European countries were surveyed. Nearly all — 97 percent — say they watch movies at least occasionally. 68 percent of them say they download or stream movies for free, and about half of that group (34 percent of respondents overall) do so weekly.
The report’s authors don’t distinguish between legal and illegal downloading and streaming: They say that they avoided the word piracy “in order to maximize responses…Some rights owners permit free downloads and streaming, some films are freely available on services such as YouTube and Vimeo, and others may come from legal catch-up services.” It’s pretty clear from reading the report, though, that most of the downloading and streaming is illegal — partly because the study focused on film, not TV, and partly because many respondents cited cost or availability as reasons that they turn to free downloads and streams:
“The high cost of cinema or legal platforms is a key motivation for free downloading and streaming. 50% of respondents admit streaming and downloading films online for free because ‘cinema tickets, VOD and DVD are expensive and they can’t afford them for all the films they want to see’ and 37% think ‘some films are interesting but not worth paying for the cinema experience’. Other reasons for streaming and downloading films for free include ease of access (31% of downloaders consider that ‘many films are available online and don’t see the point in paying’), lack of availability (30% say that ‘many films they want to see are not available in their country’ and 27% that ‘many films they want to see are too slow to come to their country’) and missed opportunities (28% say that ‘they didn’t go when the film was on the cinema and they can’t wait for it to be available on DVD or on TV’ and 23% say they ‘don’t have time to go to the cinema’).”
In addition, 19 percent of respondents said they “download mainly U.S. blockbusters,” which are most likely not available for free legal streaming or downloads. And download rates also vary by country: “Countries with the highest downloading/streaming rates are Lithuania (83%), Romania (77%), Poland (69%) and Spain (65%), while the UK (32%), Denmark (32%) and Germany (24%) show the lowest rates.”
Who is most likely to download or stream free movies? Perhaps not surprisingly, the study finds that “low income and inactivity…favor free downloading and streaming”: For instance, “68% of viewers living with a household income of less than 1,000€ [USD $1358]/month stream and download films for free (vs. 42% of viewers living with a household income of more than 2,000€ [USD $2716] /month).” Free downloading and streaming is also “more prevalent among males, young adults, respondents living in urban areas and people with a high level of education.”
The full report — much of which focuses on ways that the European film industry can reach more viewers — is here as a PDF.