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European citizens and intellectual property: perception, awareness and behaviour

In 2013, the European Union Intellectual Property Office commissioned the study, European Citizens and Intellectual Property: Perception, Awareness and Behaviour, to explore Europeans’ attitudes towards IP; the degree to which Europeans respect these rights, and the concept as a whole.

This study, which was conducted in 2016, gives an updated analysis and makes a comparison with the results of the 2013 study. It covers the population of the respective nationalities of the EU Member States, and residents in each of the 28 Member States aged 15 or over. In total, 26 555 interviews were carried out.

The importance of protecting IP is increasingly acknowledged, as almost all respondents believe it is important that inventors, creators and artists are able to protect their rights and be paid for their work. The percentage of the respondents who equate IP protection with maintaining economic stability remains stable, at 67 %. However, half of the Europeans surveyed believe that strict protection of IP may curb innovation, and more than half feel that IP principles are not adapted to the internet.

IP remains a largely abstract concept for citizens, as there is a continuing trend of associating IP protection with the ‘elite’, such as large companies and famous artists. General acceptability of copyright infringement decreases, although acceptability of downloading/streaming from illegal sources when there is no legal alternative increases. The increase in the preference for and use of legal sources has not yet led to a decrease in the use of illegal ones. Need for consumption appears to prevail over legal considerations.

Confusion is growing about what constitutes a legal or illegal source. The superior quality of legal offers is acknowledged by a majority of the Europeans surveyed, but improvement in terms of diversity seems necessary. Availability of affordable content is the primary reason that would make copyright infringers stop accessing content via illegal sources.