By the numbers: the revolution will be streamed

By the numbers: the revolution will be streamed

Summary: As ISPs everywhere await the outcome of AFACT's High Court stoush with iiNet, it might just be the natural evolution of technology that ultimately wins the battle against video piracy.


As ISPs everywhere await the outcome of AFACT's High Court stoush with iiNet, it might just be the natural evolution of technology that ultimately wins the battle against video piracy.

Technology might have created the headache for movie studios initially, with the internet and file-sharing activity creating a quick and easy channel for the illegal distribution of content — but figures from Cisco now indicate that technology will also be the thing that puts a stop to it.

Cisco's Visual Networking Index (VNI) explains why the movie studios zeroed in on Australia in the first place; file sharing here is actually very high — it makes up 26 per cent of all Australian web traffic, compared to 11 per cent in the US. And a report from internet-security company Envisional reckons that 65 per cent of all non-pornographic content on BitTorrent contravenes copyright.

(Credit: Phil Dobbie)

So how do you stop it? You've heard the argument: "Well, if they made that content available to me, I wouldn't have to download illegally!" Globally popular TV shows can be slow to reach Australian free-to-air screens (if they do at all). International licensing issues mean that some music artists on US iTunes are not for sale here, and while the US views TV and feature movies on Hulu, we can only watch from afar and wait.

So is the lack of access to legitimate content the real reason why so many Aussies break the law? The Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT) seems to argue that case. In a recent report, it claimed that movie piracy alone cost the Aussie economy $1.37 billion a year, because, it says, almost half of all illegal downloads represent content that we would otherwise have bought. By AFACT's reasoning, if we weren't able to get a movie illegally, we'd pay for it. Does it also follow, then, that if we can't legitimately buy a copy, many will try to snatch a free one off the net?

Many believe that this is the case, and, if they're right, then, according to Cisco, the issue will fix itself. Faster internet speeds mean that we'll be watching more TV and movies online over the next five years, but instead of sourcing them through file sharing, they will be streamed. In 2010, 53 per cent of Aussie consumer internet content was video. In the US, thanks to sites like Hulu, the figure was 73 per cent. But the Cisco VNI indicates that video here will outstrip the US by 2015, accounting for 80 per cent of all consumer internet traffic. That's a big leap in just five years.

(Credit: Phil Dobbie)

For online video to reach the penetration levels of the US, the studios need to sort out licensing in this part of the world. Then, it's hoped, more of us will legitimately buy what we watch. The Envisional report supports the case, reporting that while piracy is rife in file sharing, "the vast majority of video streaming is legitimate", including copyrighted content that is paid for.

So, even if AFACT loses in the High Court, they win with the NBN. Faster networks will provide the opportunity for legitimate mainstream business models.

The problem will remain in the rest of Asia Pacific, where file sharing will still be 21 per cent of all consumer traffic in 2015 (against 8 per cent in Australia). Does that mean that rather than going after ISPs, those against illegal file sharing should be lobbying governments for faster-access network infrastructure, and not wasting time fighting in courts? In other words, embrace the future, and stop worrying about the past. That way, everybody wins.

Topics: Piracy, Government AU, Security, Telcos


Phil Dobbie has a wealth of radio and business experience. He started his career in commercial radio in the UK and, since coming to Australia in 1991, has held senior marketing and management roles with Telstra, OzEmail, the British Tourist Authority and other telecommunications, media, travel and advertising businesses.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • The AFACT is in fact backed by large Hollywood corporations. When they claim that "piracy" has cost the Australian economy 1.37 billion, what they really mean is, US economic interests are threatened by Australians who access material protected by copyright law. The US is a major exporter of intellectual "property". If Hollywood corporations didn't exist, there would be no AFACT. The genius here is that the US is attempting to make the world pay for their cultural imperialism.
  • The media groups behind all of this are victims of their own corporate mentality. They want the status quo to remain, and dont want to restructure because of technology. To a point, there's fairness - you cant restructure every 5 years just because theres a better dongle to plug into your TV.

    But the music industry, in a remarkably similar situation, took on and beat Napster, only to see Apple pick up the pieces with iTunes and its convenience for mp3's. Right now, the movie industry is taking on bit torrents, while Netflix is circling to pick up the pieces.

    Remind me again how a 3rd party means profit to the studios?

    But here's what gets me about AFACT & friends mentality. I bought a blu ray movie, it came with a free digital copy. Sweet, I go to put it onto iTunes, only to get told my iTunes isnt up to date, and I need to upgrade to version 9.3, or something like that.

    No problems, apart from the fact I was running the latest version allready - 10.2 or something like that... So I had a legally purchased digital copy, which I couldnt use. If I download a copy to get around that issue, to studios label me a pirate, and that the "illegal" download is a lost sale...

    I did ask for a replacement code by the way, and was basically laughed at.
    • "you cant restructure every 5 years just because theres a better dongle to plug into your TV."

      Data is data, let us do what we want with it. There is no "restructuring".
  • What will be the NBNCo CVC charges for this predicted mass streaming?
    • About one-third of what Telstra charges
  • I downloaded the movie 'RatRace' normally i refuse to download movies, i have a DVD collection that has about 600 movies in it and a blu-ray collection with at present about 50-60movies in it.

    Why did i download ratrace, because you can't legally buy it here in Australia, EzyDVD and pretty much every other DVD retailer that i have easy access to stopped selling it around 2002.

    They go on about lost sales because of piracy, i therefore did not pirate the movie RatRace, why did i not pirate it, because i could not buy it, it is not available in this country, therefore, no sale was lost as no sale could ever be made, therefore no piracy occurred.

    Come on movie studios, make these movies available to us...

    I also downloaded Pokemon Movie #6 and #7, i downloaded those because both were released around 2006 in the US and 2007 in the UK, we are currently up to movie 13 with no signs pointing to an aussie release of either of those 2 movies. So again, no lost sale, can't have a lost sale if the movie is not available in this country!
    • To add on to that, i would rather legally purchase my movies, i dislike downloading them illegally, but what choice does one have when the movie has been out for years with no Aussie release?

      Yes, i could probably buy it from the US or UK, but then i would have to find myself a blu-ray player or DVD player that can play region-free, why should i have to compensate for the stupidity of movie studios? That's the other thing movie studios need to do away with, is this stupid region encoding, it only hurts their business more than anything.

      I remember an article where Nintendo lost a court case with regards to the use of things like the N4i cartridge on the DSi and above, Nintendo lost that court case because both of those consoles are region locked, the courts ruled that us aussies should have access to games from anywhere in the world regardless of what region it was from. They knew that the cartridge could be used for pirated games, but they felt that people would use it more for games purchased overseas.

      Nintendo however won a court case against N4i with regards to the DS and DS Lite because neither of those consoles was region locked.
  • $1.37 billion has been established as an utterly fruadlent number.

    They calculate indirect of indirect costs into that number. For example they calculate the cost of corn from a farmer who supposedly sold less corn to the food company who in turn lost margin because they couldn't sell the seeds to the cinema who in turn couldn't make popcorn because the punters were tooo busy pirating films to go to the cinema.

    I come from family involved who made film and television, (hell I've been in a film) and I can say without a doubt that piracy does not hurt the families of those involved in the industry. The business makes disgusting amounts of money and there is absolutely disdain and arrogance for the public at hand by those in the publishing business.

    Continue to pirate people. destroy the publishers and force content producers to deliver their media through better channels.
  • Wouldn't this only affect Bittorrent? Everyone can still download movies through Usenet and therefore not upload any of the content in return ,_,