Internet consumer attitudes examined by SABIP

February 2010

All areas

The UK’s Strategic Advisory Board for Intellectual Property Policy has released details of its research in a paper titledAttitudes and behaviours in the digital age: Implications for IP. SABIP’s website notes that consumers interact with copyright protected works on a daily basis, through their use of content on the internet, on television, in the cinema, when they read a magazine or book, on the radio etc. Due to the increased use of the internet, people’s interaction with content is vastly increased. People’s attitudes and behaviour in relation to their use of content (whether legal or illegal) therefore has implications for relevance of the legal system governing its use. SABIP acknowledge that “We know relatively little about the way large segments of society select and use content or how they view copyright rules. This work stream seeks to explore behavioural and/or attitudinal characteristics and trends of key consumer groups in the use of digital technologies that could have significance for medium and long-term copyright and IP systems.”
The project is phased, and began with a systematic literature review on the available evidence regarding the attitudes and behaviour of people in the online (internet) context. The next phase involved a review of the available evidence relating to the ‘offline’ context, that is, in relation to non-internet based digital technologies. Courtesy of the marvellous IPKat the key highlights are:

  • Policy makers urgently need a better understanding of how consumers behave in both the online and offline digital environment in order to provide an enabling environment for business and consumers.
  • When consumers obtain digital content they are more interested in factors such as price, quality, and availability of material, rather than its legal status.
  • Most of the analysis that has been conducted, which relies heavily on criminology, is unlikely to provide a sound basis for balanced policyConsumer behaviour online and offline in the digital world needs to be looked at from a new perspective – one that encompasses consumer choice rather than just from the viewpoint of criminal behaviour
  • “As both online and offline copying is becoming much easier with developments in hardware and mobile technology, the growth of legal and illegal copying has mushroomed. While much of the academic literature looks at this behaviour from the point of view of criminology, research shows that legality is just one of many factors that people may take into account when deciding to consume copyright products.
  • A comprehensive new framework for looking at copyright infringement online and offline is suggested, based on evidence that such infringement is often a consequence of rational decision-making by consumers. Consumers weigh up many of the same factors when infringing copyright content as they do when simply purchasing digital content.
  • The reasons consumers give for infringing copyright are consistently about the price and availability of the material, rather than its legal status – threats of legal and informal social sanctions, or technology solutions (eg. encryption), do not seem to influence behaviour
For a very interesting survey looking at the online behaviour amongst US young people see “If Your Kids Are Awake, They’re Probably Online” in the New York Times at . The report is based on a survey of more than 2,000 students in grades 3 to 12 that was conducted from October 2008 to May 2009 (our thanks to Richard Chamberlain for this link).

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