Are you a Free Infringer or a Digital Transgressor?

The latest research commissioned by the UK telecoms regulator Ofcom shows that just a tiny proportion of the population is responsible for most online copyright piracy. What's more these digital pirates are predominantly male and most could afford to buy the content if they wanted to.

The research shows that just 1.6 percent of UK Internet users over the age of 12 account for some 79 percent of copyright infringements. Also that the top 20 percent are likely to be male and aged between 16 and 34. So much for what many people may have suspected already. More interesting is that the research has sought to create a sort of spotter's guide to illegal downloaders by dividing them into a series of categories:

Justifying Infringers make up 9 percent of digital pirates and account for 24 percent of infringed content.

Digital Transgressors also make up 9 percent of pirates and account for 22 percent of infringed content.

Free Infringers account for 42 percent of pirates, are responsible for 35 percent of infringed volume and account for 10 percent of all digital media consumers.

Ambitious Infringers make up 39 percent of pirates and are responsible for 19 percent of infringed volume.

The largest category, Free Infringers, apparently download stuff just because it's free -- mostly software and games. They spend the least on digital media and offer the fewest justifications for their behaviour. Digital Transgressors are younger, many of them students. According to the report they "showed the least remorse about infringing material, but also had the highest fear of getting caught".

The Justifying Infringers already spend a lot on digital media and are typically in managerial or administrative jobs. They justify their illegal downloading on the grounds that they "felt they had spent enough on content".

Kantar Media, which carried out the survey for Ofcom, points out that many people are confused by what is and isn't legal. But it also suggests that people who consume digital media tend to do so via both legal and illegal channels. The question that is left unanswered by this report is what effect enforcement measures would have on downloading habits.

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