Institute for Screen Industries Research

Film downloading: audience attitudes and behaviour project

This project conducts audience research into the value of legal and illegal downloading services for film viewing. It aims to examine why illegal downloading continues to be popular despite the increasing availability of legal alternatives.   

Piracy image © Elias Bizannes
This project examined the value of legal and illegal downloading


The project’s key objectives are to determine:
  • What factors determine whether film content is made available for (and accessed via) illegal downloading networks (this may include genre, popularity, the presence of a star, global distribution patterns or the time it takes to download);
  • Who downloads film, when they download and what they download. This will include a comparison between legal and illegal downloading habits;
  • What value illegal downloaders place on illegal downloaded content and why it is preferable to legally downloaded content (this may relate to accessibility, a particular political stance against large corporations, monetary value or other, as yet unknown, reasons);
  • How successful anti-piracy campaigns are on audience attitudes towards copyright protection.

Project Schedule and Activities

This project will deliver results as per this agreed timetable follows:

Year 1

By the end of year one the student will deliver to industry partners:

  • Initial data and analysis of the illegal download market and official home entertainment market through box office figures and illegal download charts;
  • analysis of the development of anti-piracy campaigns and legislation with a focus on the US and UK but also recognition of other emerging markets;
  • a plan for audience research to be conducted in year 2, including details on methodologies (questionnaires and focus groups) and sample recruitment.

Year 2

By the end of year 2 the students will deliver initial findings from questionnaire and focus group research on:

  • downloading habits (both legal and illegal) across core market demographics (male and female, aged 16-35);
  • why audiences continue to value illegally downloaded content;
  • whether and how audiences are affected by anti-piracy campaigns and legislation.


Year 3

By the end of year 3, the student will deliver the full project and its findings. This will include recommendations on how to:

  • Identify which film content is most likely to be made available for illegal downloading in the UK which market segments is most likely to download such content, in order to determine where anti-piracy strategies should be focused;
  • design legal downloading services and content distribution patterns that replicate what is valued about illegal services and, as a consequence, limit the damage of illegal downloading by encouraging illegal downloaders to use legal services instead;
  • design public information campaigns in order to maximise their effectiveness in combating illegal downloading and promoting copyright ownership.

Project Leader

  • This project was conducted as part of PhD research

Institute for Screen Industries Research

The University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD