news An extensive survey conducted by respected analysis house Essential Research has found that a huge proportion of Australians would continue to pirate content such as TV shows and movies online, even if such content was made available everywhere globally at the same time for a low price.
According to ongoing global research, Australians pirate more content online than almost any other nation. For example, when the series finale of popular AMC show Breaking Bad was released in the US through cable networks in early October, the episode quickly made an appearance on popular file-sharing sites, predominantly using the BitTorrent protocol. According to file-sharing news site TorrentFreak, the show was downloaded more than 500,000 times just 12 hours after the first copy appeared online.
“Based on a sample of more than 10,000 people who shared the site via a BitTorrent client, we see that Australia is once again in the lead with 18 percent of the total,” the site wrote. “This means that a large group of Aussies prefer to torrent the episode instead of watching it on the pay TV network Foxtel.”
Those analysing Internet piracy in Australia have constantly pointed to the fact that shows such as Breaking Bad are pirated locally by many Australians because of the fact that the shows are not readily available on our own free to air television stations or through Internet television platforms. To access much of this style of content, US consumers are able to subscribe to IPTV platforms such as Netflix or Hulu, which do not operate in Australia.
In Australia, however, the timely availability of such shows has regularly been limited to Foxtel’s pay TV platform, which requires a subscription, or Apple’s iTunes platform, which many users prefer not to use because of its technical limitations.
However, according to a new survey by Essential Research published last week (PDF), it wouldn’t matter if content such as Breaking Bad episodes was available in a timely and affordable manner in Australia anyway — because a huge chunk of Australians would pirate it anyway.
Essential Research’s survey was conducted online from the 24th to the 28th October and polled some 1,075 respondents on a range of issues such as the attributes of Australian political leaders, the NSW bushfires, climate change, politicians’ expenses and downloading content from the Internet.
It found that 27 percent of respondents admitted to downloading films, music or television shows via the Internet for free. 64 percent said they did not download such material, while 9 percent said they did not know. There was an equal split between the genders when it came to downloading material, while those between 18 to 34 years of age were most likely to download such material. Those on higher incomes or with university educations were more likely to download content online.
That 27 percent total was actually down a little on a similar question asked in May 2012, when 32 percent of respondents said they downloaded such content online.
The survey respondents claimed that the main reason they downloaded material online was because they wished to access TV shows or movies not yet available in Australia (32 percent), while others downloaded such content because it was free (20 percent) or because accessing content that way was “convenient” (24 percent). A small number of respondents said they downloaded content because films and movies were too expensive.
Very few respondents — just two percent — said that they mainly downloaded content online because video formats used by providers such as Apple iTunes were too restrictive.
Lastly, respondents were asked: “If television shows, music and movies were all made available at the same time around the world and for a low price, would you purchase and dowlnoad them, pay for a subscription that enabled you to download them or continue to download them for free?”
42 percent of respondents said they would continue to download free versions regardless, while 23 percent said they would purchase and download the content. A further 18 percent said they would pay for a subscription, while 17 percent didn’t know.
The results mirror similar trends seen overseas. TorrentFreak reported with respect to the Breaking Bad example: “In the U.S. and the U.K the legal availability on Netflix couldn’t prevent people from pirating the final Breaking Bad episode either. With 14.5 and 9.3 percent these countries are second and third respectively. India and Canada complete the top five with 5.7 and 5.1 percent of the total.”
The piracy situation has generated substantial debate in Australia. In April, for example, US Ambassador to Australia Jeffrey Bleich published an impassioned statement appealing to Australians to stop breaching the copyright of US cable giant HBO by illegally downloading its popular Game of Thrones television show in record numbers.
And last week the new Coalition Federal Government reportedly signalled plans to restart long-running talks between the telecommunications and content industries to deal with the issue of Internet piracy, despite the fact that a previous round of talks between the two sides under the previous Labor administration proved pointless.
Very interesting data. So very few Australians (2 percent) care about the technical limitations of iTunes, and the most popular reason for pirating is it allows Australians access to content not otherwise available in Australia. Not that many people (20 percent) are overly worried about the cost. And yet we continue to pirate and state that we would do so regardless of whether cheap and legal options were available to get this content in a timely manner. Very strange. As a society, are we really this confused in our motivations?