Josh Henderson

A Game of Pirates: Australian government releases research on online copyright infringement

Josh Henderson

30 July 2015


For those of you who are binge downloading A Game of Thrones, or Orange is the New Black: the research is in. You are not alone. In fact, a July 2015 report estimates that about 25% of Australian internet users illegally downloaded online content in the first quarter of 2015.


The Department of Communications has just released the results of a survey of 2,630 interviews, conducted in March / April 2015 regarding online copyright infringement amongst Australians aged 12+. The full report is here.


How rife is online infringement in Australia?


The key findings included:


  • 6 out of 10 Australian internet users have consumed at least one item of digital content in the first 3 months of 2015. Of those, 54% had streamed or accessed content and 43% had downloaded content;
  • 1 in 10 Australian internet users, in that 3 month period, had shared at least one item of digital content;
  • About a quarter of Australian internet users consumed at least one item of online content illegally in that time period. Around a quarter of these exclusively consumed illegal content;
  • The main reasons for infringing is because it is free (55%), convenient (51%) and quick (45%).


What will make them stop?


The survey found that infringers may stop illegally downloading content if:


  • The price was right, as a reduction in the cost of legal content was the most common factor (39% of infringers). The other main reasons included legal content being more available (38%) and also released at the same time as elsewhere (36%);
  • The prospect of getting caught would encourage 2 in 10 infringers (20%) to stop, which increased to 23% if they thought they might get sued;
  • 1 in 20 infringers (5%) said that nothing would make them stop.


What does it all mean?


We have written a few blogs of late about this topic, such as Graham’s blog on the introduction of a site blocking bill into parliament and Paul’s blog on the Dallas Buyers Club decision (and what it means for ISPs and rights holders).


This is a complex issue which many stakeholders are grappling with.  It looks like right holders will try to use a number of different techniques, such as consumer education about online infringement, increasing the speed, quality and rate of delivery of content, engagement with ISPs (as the site blocking bill passed into law on 26 June 2015 and there is also a draft Copyright Notice Scheme Industry Code) and litigation.


However, given the attitudes of internet users – as exposed in this survey – it looks like this will continue to be a difficult issue to find a balance between protecting rights holders’ interests and satisfying users’ demand for content.