Eight percent of all consumers in Britain, France, Germany and the United States admit to downloading video illegally from the Internet, according to a survey, showing the scale of the ongoing fight against piracy.
Two-thirds of those surveyed in Britain often or sometimes watched TV, movies and video on their PC or laptop computer, with U.S. consumers not far behind. Of those, 15 percent did so illegally, the Futuresource Consulting survey showed.
"This widespread availability of illicit content presents a major obstacle to the development of online content services, and continues to heavily impact upon revenues, despite governments' and industry authorities' renewed attempts to tighten up the system," said the report published on Friday.
Most media companies are struggling to persuade consumers to pay for video, music or news online amid the widely held assumption that content on the Web is free. But attempts to fund free content by selling advertising are mostly falling short.
Governments around the world are trying to help media providers fight online piracy. The worst effects have so far been borne by the music industry, which is still struggling to compensate for an ongoing decline in CD sales.
In the United States, a woman was fined almost $2 million this week for illegal music sharing.
France's lower house of parliament approved a bill last month that will let authorities track illegal downloading over the Internet and disconnect repeat offenders.
And Britain's government proposed a range of measures this week to punish persistent illegal downloaders, including slowing down connections and eventually blocking Internet access.
But such measures are highly controversial as Internet access is increasingly perceived as something close to a human right by those who have it.
The survey found that 90 percent of those who watched video content online had never paid to watch news or recently-missed TV shows. Just over half had never paid to watch new movies. But most said they would or might be willing to pay in future.
Less than 1 percent said that an advertising reel placed before, during or after an old movie or TV show spoiled their online viewing, with 30 percent saying it had no impact and nearly half saying it only put them off a bit.
Futuresource carried out online surveys of more than 2,500 people to put together its report.