Intellectual Property Rights:
What is the cause of online piracy declining in the European Union?

By Dr. inż. Magdalena Letun-Łątka and Paula Telesz, Silesian University of Technology | 17 May 2023

Honesty is a very important human trait, which consists in adhering to certain social rules. In interpersonal relations, acting according to the principles of “fair-play” is treated on an equal footing with showing respect towards partners. Their use in business can often tip the scales of negotiations, showing that a potential business partner is guided by the moral values desired in cooperation. Is honesty culturally based, can it be learned? The answer to this subject is certainly not the simplest. Of course, it can be assumed a priori that popular methods, such as legal incentives for honest behaviour with integrity, have a positive impact on social attitudes. However, the process of people’s thinking is much more complex, which requires special analyses and studies. Therefore, it is best to narrow down the issue under consideration and focus on an area that can be calculated, and then draw objective conclusions from it.

Access to the Internet naturally shortens the barrier between the intellectual work (not only from legal sources) and its recipient. Piracy, which has reached a large scale in the Internet space, can be considered quite common among illegal ways of profiting from someone else’s work. It is based on illegal activities consisting in copying and/or using the works of others without their consent and without paying the appropriate fees. Undoubtedly, piracy deprives creators of their remuneration and can be considered as theft. In addition, it is an issue closely related to intellectual property law.

However, a report recently published by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) points to a positive phenomenon in terms of piracy. The scale of consumption of illegal content in the European Union (EU) is gradually decreasing. Between 2017 and 2020, the overall consumption of illegal content in the EU decreased by as much as 50%. At this point, it is worth quoting current statistical data for 2020 on the subject of the aforementioned decrease in illegal activity of EU citizens on the Internet:
♦ Music piracy decreased by 81%;
♦ Film piracy decreased by 68%;
♦ TV piracy decreased by 41%.

The most common illegal ways of piracy are considered to be the following activities: illegal streaming of content (80%), illegal access to TV channels (70%), illegal access to movies (20%), illegal access to music (10%) and others, such as e.g. illegal downloading of protected works, torrenting, i.e. simultaneous downloading and uploading of data within a peer-to-peer network, or streaming ripping.  In the 2020 study, the lowest piracy rates were recorded in: Poland, Germany and Finland, respectively. At the same time, these countries are below the EU average.

So, is piracy a last resort for the recipient, e.g. due to the unavailability of a given work in a legal manner, and the solution is universal access to legal content, even in paid form? What influenced the positive trend in the attitude of European Union citizens towards piracy? Can it be argued that it is competition on the market (in the form of a number of possible options to choose from) that can affect the honesty of consumers? Was it the increase in the number of VOD (video-on-demand) services available as part of the subscription that influenced the above-mentioned results of the study?

Experts see a correlation between certain phenomena: in their opinion, the growing awareness of the existence of a legal offer could have influenced the decrease in the scale of consumption of illegal content. In addition, the number of legal platforms with movies and TV channels could also have a significant impact on consumer attitudes.

Certainly, attitudes related to the legality of the source when using someone else’s intellectual property are influenced by many factors, e.g. access to legal sources, their price, education of content recipients, level of income per capita of a country, legal regulations in force in the country, or the morality of a person, which is a very individualized issue. Therefore, it is worth looking at such phenomena broadly and not focusing only on one perspective.



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