30 percent of Australians still pirate online material: Choice

According to a survey conducted by consumer advocacy group, Choice, 30 percent of Australians are illegally downloading, streaming, or watching shows or movies.

30 percent of Australians still download, stream, or watch pirated TV shows or movies online, despite government action, according to the Australian consumer advocacy group, Choice.

Choice conducted a survey of 1,010 people from July 2 to 15, via iView -- the free internet TV service from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) -- as a follow up to the same survey it conducted in 2014.

"The most frequent pirates are also the biggest consumers of paid and unpaid legal content and many exhaust the legal options before infringing online," Choice said.

"This doesn't make piracy excusable, but it sure suggests that the best way to battle online piracy is to start making content more available and less expensive."

17 percent of those surveyed by Choice regularly downloaded pirated movies or TV shows at least monthly, down 6 percent from last year; whilst 70 percent of respondents had never downloaded or streamed pirated moves or TV shows.

More Australians are using pay per view or subscription services, according to the advocacy group, with 59 percent preferring to pay for content. The number of those subscribed to Australian services also increased to 55 percent from 36 percent in 2014.

33 percent of those surveyed downloaded "much less often" since subscribing to streaming services.

"The number of people purchasing pay per view and subscription services significantly increased since 2014, probably due to the availability of Netflix," Choice said.

The arrival of Netflix, Stan, and Presto has seen the number of Australians subscribing to video-streaming services increase six-fold from 315,000 at the end of 2014 to 2 million by the end of June, according to IT consultancy firm Telsyte.

According to research by Roy Morgan conducted in June, within a month of the launch of Netflix in Australia, 296,000 households -- not including those that had already circumvented geo-blocking -- had subscribed to the service.

Choice said that a government survey from July 2015 [PDF] came to a similar conclusion.

Additionally, the consumer advocacy group said that when its survey conductors asked participants about their changes in behaviour in light of the Copyright Amendment Act 2015, 54 percent of pirates said they would search for another pirate site, while the remaining 49 percent said they would find other methods to unblock or circumvent the block.

Last week, the telecommunications industry group Communications Alliance hosted a panel of rights holders, internet service providers (ISPs), and intellectual property experts to discuss the progress of the two primary topics in the policing of piracy in Australia: The recently passed website-blocking legislation and the still-incomplete three-strikes piracy code.

The website-blocking legislation, Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Act 2015, was passed by both houses of parliament in mid-June. It allows rights holders to obtain a court order to block websites hosted overseas that are deemed to contain copyright-infringing material or facilitate user access to copyright-infringement material.

Upon visiting a blocked website, a landing page will be displayed, informing the user where legitimate content can be found.

The three-strikes code -- based on the draft code [PDF] -- would see rights holders send reports identifying IP addresses that have allegedly infringed on copyright to ISPs, and then issue infringement notices. Upon a customer receiving their third warning within a 12-month period, the ISP involved must make a user's details obtainable through a Federal Court order.

The code was due to be finalised by September 1, however it was postponed as negotiations over its cost ensued, as well as the issue whether the 70 ISPs involved would receive any compensation for legally having to enforce the copyright on behalf of rights holders.

As a precedent for tackling online piracy, in April, the Federal Court ordered iiNet, Dodo, Internode, Adam, Amnet, and Wideband to disclose the customer details associated with the 4,726 IP addresses it found had allegedly breached the copyright of the 2013 film, Dallas Buyers Club, by downloading infringing copies of the movie.

Voltage Pictures -- the production company behind the film -- was ordered by Justice Nye Perram to produce to the court a draft copy of the letter it wished to send out to the almost 5,000 customers whose details it obtained by way of the court.

In June, ZDNet obtained a copy of the draft letter and telephone script that Dallas Buyers Club said it intended to use in contacting those who had allegedly downloaded infringing copies of the film.

However, in mid-August, the court ruled that Dallas Buyers Club was not allowed to send customers out the letters it presented, as two of the four heads of damages claimed by the company could not be recovered.

The actual cost of legally purchasing the film, and damages covering the cost it took for Dallas Buyers Club to obtain that infringer's details were permitted by Perram. However the infringer's uploading activity of the film and additional damages for an infringer's other downloading history were dismissed, as Perram ruled the film studio could not collect damages relating to uploading activity and alleged illegal downloads a person had made of other copyrighted works, as they are "untenable claims".

"The court was not going to open the sluice gates until it saw the proposed correspondence, and until DBC satisfied the court that it was that approved correspondence, and not something else, such as a dead cat, that DBC was going to send to account holders," Perram said in his judgement.