Why the drop in illegal movie downloads in Australia?


This article is by Marc C-Scott, Lecturer in Screen Media, Victoria University. It originally appeared on The Conversation.

analysis There has been a decline in online piracy in Australia, according to a report by the Intellectual Property Awareness Foundation (IPAF) released this week at the Australian International Movie Convention, on the Gold Coast.

There is no doubt that piracy in Australia is far higher than many other countries. But why are the figures actually falling? The IPAF report indicates that part of the decline in piracy of movies and television programs is associated with increased access to legal alternatives. Does this mean piracy was due to lack of legal access to content all along for Australians?

All in the figures

According to the IPAF report, Australians engaging in piracy declined across all age groups from 2014 to 2015, except 35-49 year olds. The decline varied across the age groups; 18-24 from 54% to 46%; 25-34 48% to 40%, 35-49 steady at 20% and 50-64 13% to 6%.

Despite the decline in the demographic of 18-24 year olds, they are still the most active in pirating content; almost twice as active as the average Australian population.

This is the same demographic that watch 41 hours of television per month, half the average for for all Australian age groups. The 18-24’s also watch more than 26 hours of online video across multiple devices, more than double the average of all Australian ages.

IPAF executive director Lori Flekser, argues that new video on demand (VoD) services, such as Netflix, have contributed to the decline in piracy. This was the main reason for 33% of the responses to the IPAF survey for their decline in piracy.

The early indications this year were that many Australians now access legal content through VoD services. The international giant Netflix is far in front of local services Stan and Presto.

A recent report by Roy Morgan has shown that the uptake of Netflix in Australia continues to rise. In April there were 286,000 homes (748,000 people) with Netflix, which rose to 855,000 (2,221,000 people) in August.

As Tim Martin, of Roy Morgan Research, argues, these services “need not only to attract but retain subscribers” due to their no contract models. There is a concern, though, over what will happen to the figures once any trial offers expire.

Other contributors to a decline in piracy in Australia

The other reasons put forward by respondents to the IPAF survey for their decline in piracy were feeling bad about pirating and acknowledging piracy is theft (21%); worrying about being caught or getting a computer virus (16%); and lack of time (13%).

Media coverage could be another factor in the decline in piracy in Australia. The IPAF notes that the Dallas Buyers Club legal case this year also contributed to the decline in piracy in Australia. This is despite the fact that the case has yet to be finalised.

The content that many Australians pirate is, in fact, international and not that of the local industry. Australian films only equated for 2.4% of box office share in 2014.

But the Australian film and television industry supports about 47,000 livelihoods, which is why the IPAF says it’s important that everyone plays a part in dealing with piracy of content.

The IPAF’s Lori Flekser says there is “no silver bullet” to preventing piracy but she notes that part of the recent decline is due to the efforts of “delivering great content at accessible prices to Australian consumers”.

It’s a point that Netflix’s Reed Hastings has already acknowledged:

The key thing about piracy is that some fraction of it is because [users] couldn’t get the content. That part we can fix. Some part of piracy however is because they just don’t want to pay. That’s a harder part. As an industry, we need to fix global content.

This clearly shows a much broader understanding of piracy as something not just isolated to particular countries, such as Australia.

Internet video consumption is expected to more than triple from now to 2019. Internet video will be 80% of all consumer internet traffic in 2019, with traffic to peer to peer websites to remain steady from now through to 2019. These figures show that internet video viewing is only going to increase, and that places more emphasis on tackling piracy.

But piracy is a global issue, one that the industry needs to work together to address. The IPAF report indicates that ease of access was a key contributor to reducing piracy in Australia, but it is still far too early to determine how much of a contributor it was, with VoD still in its infancy in Australia. Reports are yet to include the other alternatives, such as YouTube, to traditional television and VoD services, which could also impact the future trends of video viewing.

What impact these various factors will truly have on piracy rates in Australia is still yet to be seen, but this an issue far from being resolved.

By Marc C-Scott, Lecturer in Screen Media, Victoria University This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


  1. “no silver bullet”

    Yeah I’m sure folks (probably the same ones) were saying the same when Napster was king. Pretty sure iTunes has proven there is such a silver bullet ;).

    Folks don’t appreciate being taken for a ride much less Aussie’s. That Netflix has contributed to reducing piracy is even newsworthy is somewhat sad (given we’ve been telling everyone that for years).

    “Internet video consumption is expected to more than triple from now to 2019.”
    Uh oh someone better tell Malcolm because I see a problem ;)!

    • Oh don’t worry about that, the video content will get to your node very quickly – it’s fibre after all – it might get a big congested reaching your home though.

  2. I’m sure News Ltd will manage to spin this to show how piracy is still a problem despite Netflix and other cheaper, legal alternatives being launched in Australia.

  3. And here I was thinking it was because the quality of movies has been pretty ordinary.

  4. Netflix has a much better uptake than Stan or Presto because their UI is so good and the price so reasonable? Why would I download shows when I have such a cornucopia available ad-free in 1080p (or in some cases 4k!). Add the fact that it saves my spot when I swap to a different show or a different screen and it’s a couch-potato’s nirvana.

    • It was one of my primary reason for using alternative sources for video.
      I switch to steam ages ago because I was getting a better experience paying for content than the alternative.
      All my music come from spotify again because the experience is better.
      In the video space the experience of actually paying for content was far worst Netflic has resolved that issue.

    • It’s just a shame that new release movies are such a hassle to get SVOD

      I’ve been using Nexflix for a long time and was up until it closed still going to the Local Video store as the ease of getting new releases was difficult legally. Now I’m suffering through Bigpond Movies poorly designed menu.

  5. Stop using the words piracy and theft. It is neither of those two things and you will never see those words used in any sort of legal action (in official documents, the papers/tv are retar..sorry, different).

    It really does give me the shits.

    Parting thought: Maybe there just hasn’t been anything worth getting in the last few months?

    • Does it really matter?

      While you’re technically correct, the pedantism of one side screaming “theft” and the other screaming “not theft” for.. what, 10+ years now? It’s getting silly… =)

  6. Availability of content at a reasonable price, but more than that, at the convenience of the user, is the cure to piracy…

    Steam cured me of game piracy (had over 400 dvd’s full of pirated sh#t back between 97-2003, haven’t ripped off a game in, dunno, 10+ years now). Never had a shortage of cash, just cbf waiting for the local EB to get a game in at almost double the price it was available in the US (even with the exchange rate back then).

    Netflix has cured my wife of downloading shows (not that getting caught was an issue with a VPN that flips IP’s every 30 mins and has dozens of PoP’s in international locations all over the world), and finding out that her Aus Netflix sign in works just fine for the US Netflix when on VPN to the US (aka a lot more content opened up) is the icing on the cake.

    Content providers can keep carping about maintaining their old models, adaptable types willing to meet the market will cash in. Adapt or die.

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