Piracy in Australia 'down by one-fifth'

Australians have long worn the crown of the world's most enthusiastic pirates of film and television content. But is that beginning to change?

The number of Australians watching pirated film and television content has dropped almost 20 per cent in the past year, according to peak home entertainment industry body.

Though Australia remained one of the hot spots for torrenting of Game of Thrones - with Brisbane ranked No.2 in the world for downloads on a per capita basis - research commissioned by the Australian Home Entertainment Distributors Association has found that just 16 per cent of Australians watched pirated content in the past month, compared to 21 per cent the same time last year.

The figures are the first released since the government's site-blocking laws came into effect, and add to the perception that the tide may be turning in the campaign against piracy.

The latest result - from a survey conducted by Gfk ConsumerScope, using a sample of 3185 individuals - confirms the downward trend in the popularity of pirating in Australia, which has been steadily declining since the introduction of subscription video on demand services such as Netflix and Stan.

In 2014, 29 per cent of Australians admitted to watching pirated content in the past month. In 2015, that fell to 24 per cent, and in 2016 it fell again, to 21 per cent.

Simon Bush, chief executive of the association, said the most recent figures might be explained by a number of factors: the blocking of more than 40 overseas sites known to distribute pirated content to Australian internet users; a threat by Village Roadshow chairman Graham Burke to sue individual pirates; and a high-profile advertising campaign in which Bryan Brown makes pirating sound as potentially dangerous to your computer as having unprotected sex with someone with an STD.

"[You] could end up with viruses, spyware, stolen credit card details, even identity theft," Brown warns in the campaign commercial. "Seems like a high price to pay after all."

Mr Bush believes piracy can be reduced even further. "This could be as simple as demoting or removing infringing links and ensuring piracy sites don't come up when you search for a film title, which is currently the case."

Australians have certainly embraced cheap, legal modes of film and TV viewing as it has become available. The most recent research from Roy Morgan revealed that as of June 2017, Netflix was in 31.8 per cent of Australian homes, with a potential audience of just under 7.6 million users.

According to Fairfax Media's 2016-17 annual report,Stan (which it co-owns with Nine Entertainment) had almost 800,000 active subscriptions.

The Australian Home Entertainment Distributors Association does not measure the market for video on demand, but it does measure digital distribution via pay-to-view services such as Foxtel Box Office and iTunes. That market is now worth $206 million a year. That is up from $81.7 million in 2011.

The most downloaded title, legally, in both physical and digital form, for the year to the end of September 2017 was Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

Though digital sales are growing, declining revenue from physical sales of DVD and Blu-Ray means the home entertainment market as a whole is down significantly since its peak of $1.39 billion in 2009. In 2016, physical sales were worth $806 million, giving the industry a combined value of $1.12 billion.

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This story Piracy in Australia 'down by one-fifth' first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.