According to the BBC, more than seven million people in Britain are illegally downloading copyrighted materials. Given the numbers involved, these cannot be all students. While many of these "criminals" do not know what they are doing is illegal, many others simply don't care. And this is the reason that fully one half of the Internet traffic in the UK is down to infringing transfers of copyrighted works (music, video, software, games, books, photos).
According to PC Pro, the same study, commissioned by the Strategic Advisory Board for Intellectual Property (SABIP) for submission to MPs concerned with copyright issues, claims that this illegal downloading costs the UK economy Â£12 billion pounds a year.
Intellectual Property Minister David Lammy praised the report, echoing its dire claims about illegal downloading's effects on the economy. He tells the BBC, "This is not an issue confined by national boundaries and I am sure that other [EU] member states and their copyright industries will find this report of use in the development of policy."
Such claims, however, are not new and should be taken with a pinch of salt given that (a) it is impossible to say that all Â£12 billion of those pounds would have been spent on the legitimate purchase of the copyrighted materials in question had the "illegal option" not been available and (b) whatever the case, those Â£12 billion pounds would have been spent elsewhere in the economy and so technically would represent no loss at all to the economy.
Still, given that the UK prison system can currently hold only about 80,000 inmates, it would be impractical to incarcerate the seven million or so people who are, knowingly or unknowingly, committing copyright infringement. Even if none of these infringers was ever sent to prison, the report concludes that, "[i]f all who undertake unauthorised downloading, uploading and sharing were prosecuted, up to seven million Britons would have a criminal record."