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30% of young Europeans buy counterfeit goods and download illegally

by Laura Cavestri

Buying fakes? In theory, everyone’s against it. Just like five years ago, in the previous survey (even though the market’s growing, supposedly due to a growth in consumption). If you delve a little deeper though – especially among the new generations –, you realize what everyone knows instinctively. Among Europeans between 15 and 24 years old, the percentage of those who buy counterfeit T shirts, shoes and smartphones is increasing, and so is the number of those who illegally download videos, movies, music. Because it’s cheaper (or free). And above all, more and more surfers can’t distinguish whether they’re downloading legally or not, whether the web site they’re using is legit or not. In many cases, their good faith is betrayed.

“These results – said the President and Agency executive of the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), António Campinos – highlight the need for the Observatory’s activities, such as the European portal of online contents, publishing FAQs on copyright, supporting the creation of Europol’s Coordination Center against infringements of intellectual property rights. European citizens are overall aware of the issue, but there is room for improvement.”

The EUIPO (European Union Intellectual Property Office) has just published its new survey on “European Citizens and Intellectual Property,” an update of a first study on how Europeans perceive the issue, which the Observatory published in 2013: a sample of over 26,000 interviews of European citizens, 15 years old and above.

Europeans against fakes (in theory)

Even at a time of economic recession that’s put pressure on household budgets, 97% of interviewees agrees – theoretically – that inventors, creators and artists can and should protect their rights and receive remuneration for their works. Moreover, 7 out of 10 Europeans believe nothing can justify the purchase of counterfeit products, while 78% are of the opinion that buying fakes jeopardizes trade and employment – an issue that’s been confirmed by other studies conducted by the Observatory. Europeans appear to be aware of the damage to jobs and the economy deriving from the counterfeit market.  

Theory and practice, however, do not always match

A clear preference emerges for the use of legitimate tools to access online materials (83% of interviewees) when an affordable option is available (each according to his or her own possibilities).

However, Europeans are showing increasing acceptance of the illegal phenomenon. 24% of Europeans (+6% versus 2013) believe it’s acceptable to purchase counterfeits when the original is not available or not yet available where one lives; and 27% of citizens (+3% compared to 5 years ago), when the original is too expensive. What’s more, the age range between 15 and 24 is even less convinced of the detrimental effects of counterfeit goods – again, for reasons of price and immediate availability. 31% believe it is acceptable to acquire content illegally and around 30% declare they have downloaded illegal content over the past year (taking into account adults as well, the percentage becomes 10% of all interviewees).

Growing confusion

There is growing confusion, however, on what does or does not constitute a legitimate source. 24% of interviewees have doubts on the legitimacy of source; this percentage increases to 45% in the case of young people. Moreover, 10% of interviewees reported they were misled at time of purchase, while 35% did not know whether the product they’d bought was authentic or counterfeit.


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