Government research confirms rampant piracy, casts doubts on three-strike scheme

A new report on online copyright infringement published by the Department of Communications claims that over five million Australian internet users pirated content in the first three months of 2015, but only one in five would stop if threatened by their internet service provider (ISP).

Prepared by research firm Taylor Nelson Sofres (TNS) Australia, the Online Copyright Infringement Research Paper details Australians' attitudes to piracy based on a sample of 2,630 locals over the age of 12.

The report found that 43% of "content consuming" Australian internet users admitted to piracy in the first three months of 2015, and that movies had the highest rate of illegal consumption, followed by music, television shows and videogames.

Cost was the most commonly cited reason for infringement; 55% of participants who admitted to piracy said they download content because it's free, 35% of participants said piracy provided a way to "try before buying", and 30% of participants said they "felt legal content was too expensive".

Conversely, the research found that that lower prices, wider availability, and simultaneous releases would encourage Australians to stop pirating.

Just one in five participants said they would be impacted by the threat of a receiving a letter from their ISP, and only 5% of infringers said nothing would make them stop. 

The research follows the development of a three-strikes-you're-out code set to be introduced in September this year. Under the code, ISPs will be required to send pirates educative warning notices on behalf of rights holders. After a user's third infringement, ISPs will have to share the user’s contact information with rights holders.

John Stanton, CEO of Communications Alliance – the primary telecommunications industry body in Australia, said TNS' research highlights the need for rights holders to make legal content available to Australians in a timely and affordable manner.

"These results suggest that while there is a role for a copyright notice scheme code in Australia to assist in fighting infringement, more work needs to be done to make legal content more affordable and more available, to combat the root causes of infringing activity," said Stanton. 

"It is interesting that almost three quarters of those internet users who consumed content illegally were also accessing content legally – they were apparently not just looking exclusively for a 'free ride', but also were chasing the convenience that comes with ready availability of content."

The news also follow the passing of controversial site-blocking legislation at the end of June. Dubbed the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement Bill), the legislation gives right holders the power to compel local internet service providers to block access to international websites that facilitate piracy.

To date, not a single website has been blocked under the new laws.

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