Almost one-fifth of Australian Internet users have illegally downloaded a movie from the Internet, a survey prepared for a US movie lobby group claims.
The survey also found that a similar percentage of Australians who download movies from the Internet are buying films less often than in the past.
Those proportions could increase as broadband penetration and takeup improves and file compression technologies advance. Across the 8 nations surveyed, 56 percent of downloaders expected to continue downloading movies, while 17 percent are likely to start downloading in the future.
The survey, conducted on behalf of the Motion Picture Association of America, revealed Australia ranked seventh out of the 8 countries surveyed in the percentage of Internet users to have downloaded a movie, although only one or two percentage points behind three other countries. Eighteen percent of respondents reported doing so.
However, in a particularly telling statistic, the highly broadband-enabled nation of Korea led with six out of 10 Internet users having reported downloading a movie.
Australia ranked third among the nations surveyed in which movie downloaders were reducing their movie digital versatile disk (DVD) or video purchases. Seventeen percent admitted to doing so.
However, some 52 percent of downloaders in Korea reported buying movies less often, a pattern which may be repeated in Australia as broadband penetration and takeup increases. France was second with 19 percent, with the United States ranking fifth at 13 percent.
The survey of 3,600 Internet users was conducted by online researcher the Online Testing Exchange.
The survey found that "although in a minority, a substantial percentage of [overall] respondents have no qualms with the concept of downloading films before they are released theatrically.
"Nearly half believe it's acceptable to download movies before they're released on DVD/video and the vast majority has no objection to downloading after [a movie] is released on DVD/video".
The survey found, however, that the fact that pirating movies through the Internet was illegal was a "major deterrent" for downloaders.
"A majority of downloaders indicate they would consider downloading films if it wasn't against the law.
"As is also true among downloaders, those who haven't yet engaged in Internet piracy activity also cite the amount of time it takes to download and quality issues as important secondary barriers".
The survey found that the top means of preventing piracy in future lay in educating consumers that such activity was illegal.
"There is also strong interest in discovering means of legally obtaining movies".