Australians massive Internet pirates, says Turnbull research


news Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull this morning released research which shows that about a quarter of Australian Internet users pirated Internet content, in a joint effort with the UK Government aimed at displaying the need for international and industry cooperation to tackle the issue.

The Australian research was commissioned by Turnbull’s Department of Communications and undertaken by Taylor Nelson Sofries Australia, with the firm using online and telephone interviews to question 2,630 Australians aged 12 years and over on their entertainment habits between the dates of 25 March and 13 April this year.

The survey found that 43 percent of ‘online content consumers’ surveyed — those who had consumed digital content in the period — had consumed at least some illegal files, representing 26 percent of total Australian Internet users.

In a statement, Turnbull said the resulted highlighted the importance of international collaboration to help understand the reasons for online copyright infringement, establish benchmarks and share solutions. The results, the Minister added, also underscored the importance of Governments working with industry to address infringement issues, and that a range of measures were needed to properly tackle the problem.

Last month the Federal Parliament passed the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015, legislation which will allow copyright owners to seek a court injunction which would force Internet providers to block websites which infringe their copyright. And the Australian Communications and Media Authority is currently considering an industry code developed by the Communications Alliance which would eventually see the details of alleged Internet pirates handed over to the content owners to pursue legal action against them.

However, the results also displayed some figures which could prove uncomfortable for the Government.

Last week, Labor MP Ed Husic published a lengthy article arguing the new legislation and industry self-regulatory measures pushed by the Government will “do little” to resolve the issue of Internet piracy, arguing the issue is a market problem and needs to be addressed by focusing on bad corporate behaviour instead.

Turnbull’s research appears to back Husic’s argument, with the survey results showing that 39 percent of pirates would stop infringing if legal content was cheaper, 38 percent would stop if it was more available, and 36 percent would stop if it had the same release date as other countries. 43 percent of Internet users stated they were not confident of what was legal content online.

Last week, Husic said it was access to content — in a convenient manner and at the right price — that would stop piracy.

Husic said it had been shown “repeatedly” that Australian consumers were willing to pay for products offered at a reasonable price and in a timely fashion, citing examples such as the highly popular streaming platforms Spotify and Netflix.

“Until this government and business gets tough on the causes of piracy it’s hard to see a long term, sustained reduction in piracy … If blue-collar workers can change, why can’t some of our big corporations do the same?” he asked.

Turnbull’s statement acknowledged this. “… rights holders’ most powerful tool to combat online copyright infringement is making content accessible, timely and affordable to consumers,” the Minister said. The research also shows that rates of piracy in the UK — where content is much more widely accessible than in Australia — are lower than in Australia.

Turnbull also noted that the UK’s Intellectual Property Office had conducted a similar survey between March and May this year, undertaken by Kantar Media. The survey is the fifth such study the country has undertaken on online copyright infringement. The Australian survey was based on the UK approach. The UK results will be released later today.


This survey represents something of a bitter pill for the Government and for industry group the Communications Alliance, which Turnbull pushed into developing an industry code to deal with the issue of Internet piracy.

On the one hand, of course the survey shows that Australians are massive Internet pirates. We already knew that from a variety of sources, and it probably exacerbated the situation that the survey was taken in Australia during a time when the popular HBO series Game of Thrones was being held hostage in Australia by pay TV giant Foxtel. If you survey Australians about their Internet piracy habits when they are downloading Game of Thrones every week, of course you’re going to see strong pirating behaviour.

However, the survey also backs up the view put by Husic and others that the real cause of Internet piracy is the lack of timely, affordable and accessible access to content. It’s just a little inconvient for Turnbull that Husic has been taling about this issue only last week.

Ultimately I don’t believe Turnbull ever personally really wanted to enact Internet piracy legislation or to force the Communications Alliance to develop an industry code to deal with the issue. Turnbull himself most likely is aware that the issue can only be correctly handled in the long term by rights holders making their content more available. As we’ve seen with the launch of Netflix in Australia, Australians will jump on board in massive numbers if they see content made available in the right manner.

As with the data retention issue, however, Turnbull is essentially handling this issue as a proxy for Attorney-General George Brandis, and the Attorney-General’s Department. The Minister has become the progressive face of Abbott’s Cabinet, ‘selling’ unpopular policies which he has personal doubts about.

It’s an essential irony tied to the nature of party politics. Just as Labor party rules meant Ed Husic was forced to vote for an Internet piracy bill he was not in favour of, so Cabinet rules mean Turnbull is forced ot publicly support and push through Internet piracy policy he most likely has personal doubts about. One does wonder whether our redoubtable Communications Minister will ever get tired of it.

Image credit: NEXTDC


  1. I wonder how much money the taxpayers spent on performing and reporting on this research?

    The fact remains that until accessing content via what the content producers might describe as ‘non-preferred delivery mechanisms’ is no longer the path of least resistance, people will do it.

    “Do I want to pay $25.00, plus time, effort, and transport costs, to go to a bricks and mortar store to get access to the movie I want?”

    “Do I want to pay $25.00 to go to an online store to get access to the movie I want?”

    “Do I want to pay $5.00 in excess download fees for the month for downloading the movie I want through other channels?”

    “Do I want to wait 6 months for the content producers to make the movie I want available in Australia, or do I want it now?”

    Human beings are ultimately economic beasts.

  2. The was a report that that Australia pays for digital content per cap is only second to the U.S. Do yes we do priate a lot but we also pay a lot too.

  3. It’s interesting to note that the percentage rates of piracy in Video Games is about equal, which is interesting as grabbing a game from a torrent is just as easy as grabbing video content.

    However unlike other video content, Australia has had ready access to purchasing video games for over a decade now, with not unreasonable prices and mostly timely releases.

    • I can think of several examples where we got slugged with the Australia Tax for video games delivered via download, and there are probably many more. One I’m thinking of is the game “Cliffs of Dover”. Released a few years ago, I was thinking of buying a copy recently, until I discovered that the ‘on sale’ price in Australia was *triple* the regular, ‘everyday’ price in the US. Delivered via Steam, in both cases.

      In that instance, I didn’t want to play the game enough to pursue alternate sources, but it’s that sort of blatant exploitation of Aussie consumers that has so many of us even considering illicit sources for content.

      • As it has been stated before, the price difference is due to publishers charging more for digital delivery based on retail prices being more. In some ways this boils down to renting of physical space costing a lot (either direct rent by stores or due to high wages required by staff to also pay for rent).

        The other thing to consider is, if I buy this game for $X and it gives me an experience for Y hours, how does that compare to video and other content? Is it better value still at the higher price?

        • Not when the digital cost the same as the physical price. There is no shelf or warehouse to stock the product on a digital service. I like steam valve games are the same price every where it the third party company’s that charge the same price through steam as the retail copy. When you could pre order civ 4 was selling for about $59 on steam them the make of the game got wind it was selling cheaper than the retail price and was jacked up to $89

          • I think you were meaning to say Civ 5, not 4. In that particular case it was a promotional image where they showed the $59US price, and I don’t believe anyone in Australia was actually able to buy it at that price.

            But regardless that is a game that you would easily spend 100’s of hours playing, which turns the $ cost/hr into the cents range. Contrast that with the amount we pay for a movie ticket, which is only 2 – 3 hours at best, and you already have better value.

            Also don’t forget that the dollar has now fallen from the highs before, $59US is pretty close to $89AU now.

          • Steam was selling it on the steam store for $59 until the price was changed to $89

            But claiming the enjoyment of playing doesn’t not count for the fact that Australia pays a lot higher prices than any where else. We should not be paying those higher prices in the first place.

          • Regardless of the discussions on price, my main point from the initial post was that because we have the availability and convenience of access (at a price many are willing to pay, regardless of how much we’re getting screwed over by it) for video games, that the piracy rate is nearly the same as it is in the UK. There will always be a segment of the population which will pirate everything because they can, but others are more than willing to pay for it.

          • Dominik
            Its not just a simple answer as willing ness to pay or cost of doing business. As there isn’t a real choice of said products including entertainment.

          • Stop apologising for them.
            This is the big publishers ripping us off, nothing more. PC games are not a significant seller in Bricks and Mortar stores, so the argument defending the price around them is weak.
            Yes our dollar is weaker again, but it certainly was not weak for a very long time and yet prices didn’t change. So that argument doesn’t fly either.
            Also on steam we pay in US dollars, so exchange rate is not withstanding, the same amount of profit would be made by the publisher no matter the strength of the AU dollar.
            Ratings system argument. It costs $4000 to get a game rated. Not an issue for the big publishers.
            Taxes. We don’t currently tax digital downloads. So again not an argument.

            You can do a price compare on the steam stores
            Aus –
            US –

            Look at the big publisher games, EA, Ubisoft, 2k games etc
            Civ 5 US$29 vs US$69
            Fallout 4 US$59 v UsS$79

            Huh… maybe I need to apologise to Ubisoft. Their prices now appear to be the same across the board….

            Anyway you get the point we are being ripped on average US$20 on big name games for no reason other than being Australian.

            The only good thing is it is fostering a massive indie market that aren’t being asshats about their pricing.

          • I’m not apologising, just enumerating some of the potential reasons for why it is higher. Though the simple way to change things would be just not to buy them at those prices, as part of the reason that we Australians continue getting the higher prices is because we keep buying it at those prices. So stop buying and they’ll have to reduce them, but good luck in getting the general public to follow through.

            Then again you can always look at other regions, like say Ukraine, where the prices are a fraction of even the USA price.

          • You kind of are. You mentioned the time vs amount etc. Then raised the value vs say a movie ticket.

            Now the time vs amount is irrelevant, because the issue is the amount in the first place, a game you play for many 100s of hours is going to be good value no matter the price point.

            As to the movie tickets. Cinema’s are bricks and mortar, hence you are paying for both rent and employee costs, so again doesn’t match up with a digital download.

            Your arguments are spurious, and distract from the real argument. Australia has long been overcharged for things, and this is happening at the Publisher/Wholesaler/distributor levels, not at the Retail levels. Hence it is overseas companies that are tending to make the huge profits at the expense of our Retail industries.

          • I wouldn’t bring movie comparisons in to this. It costs about US$8 to go to the cinema in the US, minimum AU$18 here. Cinemas are a almost a Village Roadshow monopoly. Don’t let the illusion of brand choices cloud your vision.

          • You’re also forgetting that we also get occasionally watered down versions of games even in this age of R18+ ratings…

            Why pay 80 bucks or so for a censored game like SRIV and South Park TSOT when you can grab an uncensored version for free?

          • Rock what was better from the IT inquiry when buying Adobe creative suite you could by a return airfare from Sydney to LA bu it there and you would still $600 better off then buying it in Australia.
            Dominik can you justify that cost to business that need to use it.

          • That is a simple answer, if the business truly needs that bit of software, then they will pay for it. It is just another cost for doing that particular business. No, it’s not fair per se, especially at the Adobe prices, but there are many companies that charge businesses real money for their goods and services, more than they would for a general consumer.

            The best answer from that review is from (I believe) the Microsoft representative, where they said that they charge that much because Australians are willing to pay that much.

          • And then this is another cost to our businesses. Businesses that have to compete with others who do not have this cost.

            They need to reduce costs. They can either reduce their operating costs in the sense of Rent, Pay, Benefits etc. OR they can target the areas that have been artificially inflated.

            This is not a consumer issue. Essentially the Retail market needs to start pushing back hard at the base prices that they are being charged. Consumer’s can only do so much, and in fact are doing what is needed at the moment. They are starting to use alternative methods to get the products they want. This puts pressure on the retailers, who now need to change something. They won’t be able to change the market back to the way it was(tho like all industries they will try), hence they need to start pushing back on their providers and start asking why they are being charged sometimes 100% markup over a similar country like the US. And they need to argue against spurious attacks like for example distance which is no longer anywhere near the factor it used to be.

      • Just buy steam keys from (reputable) alternate sources like the Humble Store. Pay in $US and get the US prices

  4. Looking at GoT being held by hostage as the main reason for piracy in Australia should probably be compared to GoT being held hostage by HBO in the US, just as looking at pricing being too high in Australia should be compared to pricing in the US given relative PPP rates (or, my favourite question for people that ask why we pay more than Americans for content: why not use the price that Indians pay, considering it’s usually significantly cheaper).

    Interesting to see, however, that movie and music piracy trumps tv.

    • So you’re saying, because stuff in general is ridiculously expensive in Australia, it’s OK for content providers to charge us double or triple what they charge other markets, when their cost is the same or lower?

      Maybe that argument passes muster with economists, but the average punter sees it a little differently…

      • I don’t find most things ridiculously expensive in Australia, tho’. More expensive? Yes. Will I work around that if it’s relatively easy/trivial? Yes. Will I lose sleep over having to pay more than someone in India despite earning much more than someone in India? No.

        Replace India with any other country. If it was really about getting it for much cheaper prices, I’d at least understand if people fixated on India or Russia or Brazil. But it’s always the US.

        The average punter sees that they can get it cheaper elsewhere and so want it at that cheaper price. The average punter doesn’t understand that to get everything cheaper, they’re looking at a similarly big pay cut.

        • ‘Ridiculously’, as in ‘completely unjustifiably’.

          When it’s cheaper to import physical goods via airmail from 1st world countries (such as the US, UK, or Europe) than it is to purchase a digital download that has an incremental cost of production measured in fractions of a cent, you know local pricing is set purely to screw as much as possible out of the locals.

          • Except that’s how local pricing works in almost every market for those kinds of goods. The margin chosen for the US market is what is considered appropriate for what people there earn. We happen to have a higher cost of living, India lower.

            What becomes a justifiable price? What market/product is cross-subsidising some other market/product?

          • Netflix was cheaper in Australia than in the USA when it launched based on your assumptions it should have been more expensive.

            Why is Netflix immune to this price gouging?

            My guess it they are not tied to an old world system and an old world pricing model which means they charge a similar amount everywhere in the world.

        • It is the US because they are a similar country to us in terms of standard of living.

          Is it really that hard to understand?

  5. I find the section on Games the most interesting. Arguably Gamers (PC gamers at least) tend to sit in that space of “technically literate” enough to easily be “Pirates” and yet the level of gaming piracy is the lowest of all.

    I would love to see real world figures on exactly what is pirated. My guess is it is the high priced “big 5 publisher” type games that tend to be $20-$40 more expensive on services like Steam etc.

  6. “well, they WOULD say that, wouldnt they?”

    as for Turnbull he believes he is the heir apparent in his party so the likelihood of him flipping a table and saying ‘get lost’ is extremely low, to my mind. he will feel he can hold out and stomach a few more uncomfortable items and then he will be able to call the shots.

    the problem with that is he is surrounded by regressives who will shoot down his ideas in any future Turnbull cabinet, yielding no change, ultimately. he may personally feel dislike over the policies, but …. frankly, he is in the wrong party to do otherwise. certainly, next to the rest of them he sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb….

    (and apologies for being late… but WB Renai!)

  7. To say that Foxtel hold Game of Thrones hostage and imply that the situation is completely different to other markets is ridiculous.

    In the USA HBO is a 15-20 USD add on to an existing Pay TV package. Very similar to Foxtel holding HBO and Showtime content in a 20 AUD add on pack to an existing Pay TV package.

    HBO is heavily pirated and difficult to access in almost every market but for some reason in Australia we feel like we can justify our actions simply because we’re not used to the concept of paying for television.

    • That used to be true but HBO Go Streaming service is available as a subscription service stand alone and has been for ages in the USA.

      • HBO Go requires a cable sub and is not and was never accessible as a standalone service. HBO Now is their brand new SVOD service which they launched in April for Apple devices and only just recently for other platforms and charge a healthy 15 USD for access to.

        Showtime is again another 10-15 USD addition to a subscription TV package in the USA and only just started offering their shows through a 8 USD add-on to a 10 USD Hulu service.

        Considering Foxtel offers programming from both of these networks as well as a few others in a 20 AUD add on (read: significantly cheaper) to a subscription TV service that a third of Australian households have I would hardly say we’re being screwed.

        • EDIT
          Your entire premise is that because the USA don’t have access to HBO standalone we are not being screwed.

          BUT they do have access to standalone HBO content for $15 a month.

        • Also there is a massive issue of quality of content.

          I have a 55 inch1080p tv and would like to watch Game of Thrones in Full HD.

          Foxtel do not offer this resolution at all their streaming service is 480p.

          Their cable service is 720p

          I waited till the end of the season to watch it in 1080p and every part that should have been a surprise was spoiled.

          There were no surprises no shocks the entire thing was very average due to this.

          • Yep Foxtel Play is rubbish. It’s actually 360p.

            However their Cable/Satellite service is 1920x1080i with 5.1 AC3 audio and doesn’t look or sound too shabby.

            Yes I do understand that HBO Now exists and yes it is $15USD a month but it’s a very very new service and wasn’t available for most users for the last three months. It isn’t relevant when discussing historical data and trends like those in this article however it is relevant looking into the future of content prices.

  8. “One word “Foxtel”. People don’t want to pay for ads. Foxtel is killing this country, they buy right to all the shows that people want to want and the online streaming website can’t show it. The alternative is xbox video but nobody is going to pay 8$ for a movie. So what do you do when you don’t want to pay for foxtel and ripp off xbox video = pirate.

    Just do a test put the new episodes of game of thrones on netflix when they come out and see if netflix get a rise in customers. I bet you a million dollars they will.

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