Study finds people who illegally download the most movies, TV shows and music also spend the most money on legitimate downloads.
Web users in the UK may be using illegal downloads to 'try' the latest digital content - music albums, movies and games - before purchasing them.
According to a new survey, the worst perpetrators of online piracy are also the people who spend the most money on legitimate downloads.
The survey, conducted by market intelligence firm Kantar Media on behalf of Ofcom, the UK communications regulator, found the top 20% of illegal downloaders account for almost 88% of all online piracy.
However, the same 20% of web users typically spend around £336 a year on digital music, TV shows, movies and games from legal outlets like iTunes, compared to £108 spent by people who don't get involved in illegal file sharing.
It could mean piracy is a means of 'trying before buying' for many of Britain's web users.
The Ofcom report labels them "justifying infringers" as they seem to feel entitled to free downloads - even if it means breaking the law - because they also pay for online content.
In February, a separate report, compiled by market research company The NPD Group, revealed piracy on the internet had decreased in recent years, helping the music industry recover from more than a decade of dwindling sales.
According to the data, illegal downloads dropped by 17% in 2012, continuing the downward trend from a 2005 peak of 33 million. Meanwhile, global music sales are on the increase for the first time since 1999.