Film and TV piracy surges

Australians are illegally downloading or streaming film and TV content more frequently than ever, according to a new study.

In another worrying trend for content owners, piracy has become an entrenched habit for the majority of 18-to-24 year-olds.

Even more ominously, the percentage of adults who agree that downloading or streaming pirated content is theft has fallen for the third straight year.

Commissioned by the IP Awareness Foundation (IPAF), the national online quantitative study was conducted by Sycamore Research and Newspoll, surveying 1,800 Australians aged 12-64 from June to August 2014.

The survey showed 29% of adults admit to being active pirates, compared with 25% in 2013. Of the most active, 55% are downloading pirated movies weekly, an increase of 20% since last year.

Releasing the findings at the Australian International Movie Convention today, IPAF executive director Lori Flekser told IF, “The really frightening thing is that piracy is now the norm among 18-to-24 year- olds. Our qualitative research shows they pirate because it is free, they don’t want to pay and no one is stopping them. Young people are losing the ability to recognise the value of content.”

Flekser contends that a combination of legislation and education, the latter including parents refraining from piracy and discouraging their kids from so doing, is needed to change these habits.

Content owners have been lobbying the government to require ISPs to block piracy web sites and to issue three written warnings to users who flagrantly download content illegally, after which their broadband service would be slowed.

“Our research reinforces the urgency for a clear legislative framework that guides online behaviours and restricts access to unauthorised or unlicensed content,” she said.

Many distributors contend the 120-day holdback between theatrical launch and home entertainment is outdated, forcing consumers to wait far too long to legally rent or buy films online.

Flekser did not address that issue but pointed out that piracy of TV shows is rife despite the express-from-the US policy of Foxtel and, on occasions, the free-to-air broadcasters.

The study shows 14% of 12-13 year-olds pirate film and TV shows, rising to 36% of 16-17 year-olds and 54% of 18-24s.

Some 64% of adults agree that streaming or downloading pirated content is stealing, down from 67% in 2013 and 71% in 2012.

According to the survey 60% of Australian adults and 66% of Australians aged 12-17 say they have never downloaded or streamed pirated content.

Unsurprisingly, 73% of those who would choose piracy as their preferred option for watching a new release movie say that if the pirated version was not available, they would go the cinema (23%) or wait for the film to be available online or on DVD/Blu-ray (50%).

Parental influence is a key factor. In households where parents are pirating, the children appear likely to do so as, and 85% of kids who don’t pirate say their parents have spoken to them about piracy.

Flekser added: “IP Awareness supports the notion that we all share the responsibility. Industry, government, online businesses, parents, schools, individuals and communities all have a role to play to ensure that the creative industries remain viable and sustainable.”

More than 600 respondents aged 12-17 and almost 1200 respondents aged 18-64 participated nationally in the study. The research was conducted online with national coverage, anonymous participation and up-weighted to ABS data to be representative of the total population.

  1. Napster showed us that people will pirate when they are not presented with access to new modes of accessing content at reasonable cost. Apple then realized this, and made it so (even though for some reason music on iTunes is MUCH more expensive in Australia). Spotify also works as an online music subscription service. That is, on-demand access to a cloud of content at reasonable cost.

    Bottom line is that most people will not bother to pirate if they can access content at fair cost easily, and through modern channels of distribution.

    Now, youth in Australia know that subscription video websites like Netflix and Hulu exist in the US (for $10 a month!), US TV networks have their own online ad-revenue or subscription channels, and the cost to go to movies is about five or so bucks – but Australia still has 5 free-to-air channels, $18 cinema tickets, expensive and restricted Foxtel, and BigPond – which charges about the same cost per movie as a DVD store for one viewing.

    Why, in Australia, can no one get it together to launch a subscription video site for reasonable cost per month? We’ve already seen that more and more Australian’s are accessing Netflix through proxy IP. These things must all add up to someone who has the potential to start an Australian version of Netflix soon – surely? Notice that Netflix is not mentioned once in this article? Foxtel? $49+ per month for a set number of channels? Please… The 120 day cinema delay is also ridiculous when the cost to go see a new release is $18 a ticket. Why would less well-off youth wait, when they can pirate for free?

    Pirating is wrong, and it will likely always exist to some degree, no matter how much parents warn against it. But when it gets to plague proportion it has to be recognized as not a symptom of bad parenting, but a symptom of a broken distribution system.

    iTunes, Spotify, and the music industry still make money post-Napster. Sure, the playing field has changed somewhat, but this is to be expected in the reshaped culture of the digital.

    Give Australian people what the rest of the first world has, access to global online content at reasonable cost, and the piracy issue will fix itself.

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