New study shows almost 1 in 4 teens are pirates

The prevailing attitude among young teens who illegally download films and TV content can be summed up as: “Why would I pay when I can get it for free?”

That’s according to the first study of the attitudes and behaviour of Australians aged 12-17 to online film and television piracy.

The research found 24% of that age group persistently or casually watch pirated material,  broadly in line with the 25% of adults who do so. Previous studies found the most prolific illegal downloaders are males aged 18-24.

The incidence of piracy activity increases with age, from 17% of those aged 12-13 to 31% of 16-17 year-olds. Only 46% of young teens who engage in online piracy regard what they are doing as stealing / theft.

The Intellectual Property Awareness Foundation (IPAF) coalition of film and TV organisations commissioned the study through Sycamore Research in partnership with Newspoll.

Lori Flekser, Executive Director of IPAF, says this generation of digital native watch pirated content “because it’s free, easily accessible, nobody is stopping them and they incorrectly believe it is the social norm and that it does no real harm.”

Flekser identifies an increasing trend among young people to place zero value on content, with respondents expressing sentiments such as, “Why should I be the sucker that has to pay for what everyone else is getting for free?,” “I am not going to watch it more than once, why should I pay for it?” and “I wouldn't want to waste my money on something I wasn't going to love.”

The finding that 76% of young teens say they don’t pirate movies and TV shows surprised Flekser, belying the anecdotal evidence that “everyone does it.”

The new study corroborates IPAF’s previous adult-focused research about the ultimate reason Australians of all ages pirate movies and TV shows – because they can get it for free. “This is, and should be, of huge concern to our creative industries, which employ significant numbers of people,” she says.

IPAF is not a lobbying body but the findings are likely to be used by film and TV organisations to intensify calls on the government to empower the courts to block illegal streaming sites.

Flekser says nearly 15 countries including the UK, Spain, France, Germany and the Netherlands have introduced such measures and the early evidence is that they are proving effective. “The purpose of our research is to inform the debate and to address some of the misperceptions that exist around this issue,” she says.

Marc Wooldridge, Managing Director of 20th Century Fox Film Distributors, says piracy is a massive drain on the film industry, stating, “It's disheartening and shows a disregard for the time, effort and money that's invested in creating amazing pieces of entertainment that obviously are important to those pirating, because they spend a lot of time engaging with filmed entertainment. They just have a reluctance to pay for it when they can get it for free. That's one of our ongoing challenges. It’s hard to compete with free.”

More than 600 respondents aged 12-17 participated nationally in the quantitative research, conducted online. Sycamore Research used an online platform for the qualitative research, including a fully moderated diary and online forum.