Australia Is NOT The World's Game Of Thrones Piracy Capital

In the wake of Game Of Thrones season 4's first episode yesterday, we've seen the inevitable follow-up statistics claiming that Australia downloads more pirate copies of Game Of Thrones than any other country in the world. And as usual, these claims are deeply suspect and essentially unjustified.

Torrent news site TorrentFreak estimates that more than a million copies of the episode were downloaded on the day of its debut (which was Monday Australian time, Sunday in the US). It based that claim on examining torrents that were being openly shared, which probably means it's an under-estimate (since encrypted and private torrents wouldn't be included). But while that figure is rubbery, the figures about which countries are downloading are even more questionable.

Here's how TorrentFreak explained its methodology:

In addition to the downloads, we also looked at the countries people were sharing from. A sample of 18,333 IP-addresses collected over the day shows that Australia takes the crown with 11.6% of the total. The United States is a good second with 9.3%, followed by the United Kingdom with 5.8%.

That sample of 18,333 addresses represents less than 2 per cent of the claimed total downloads. We don't know how the addresses were selected. More importantly, we don't know what time they were selected. As we noted earlier in the year when examining similar statistics about the Breaking Bad finale, Australia would be over-represented if you checked statistics between 6pm and 7pm our time, as people returning home from work began their downloads for an evening's viewing. By that point, many people in the US would have finished their downloads already.

All of the other points we raised in that article apply here too. In particular, identifying country of origin by IP address isn't perfect, so making absolute claims is difficult.

Here's the main thing: the claim that Australia tops the world for Game Of Thrones piracy is ultimately based on the behaviour of just 2103 people (11.6 per cent of the 18,133 sampled addresses). I'd actually be amazed if the number of Australians who pirated the show was anywhere near as low as that -- but that's the figure on which the claim is based. Statistically, it's nonsense.

Yes, conventional TV ratings are based on small sample sizes too. But those groups are selected to be representative of broader demographic trends, and the methodology used is public. Neither is true in TorrentFreak's case. We have no idea how those addresses were selected or what period of time they were collected over. There's simple not enough evidence for the claim about Australian piracy to stand up.

A final thought. The claimed million downloads is only one-sixth of the 6 million people who actually watched the show in the US on HBO. Piracy is clearly a problem, but it still doesn't represent the majority of the audience for the show.

Update: After this post was published, TorrentFreak added a note to its article saying "the IP-address sample was collected during the first 12 hours, which means that there’s a geographical bias" -- the point we made in this and the previous article.

Also for the commenters: when I wrote "Statistically, it's nonsense" I was referring to the overall flaws with the study and its methodology, not just the sample size. As the very next sentence notes, small sizes can work but the way you select the sample is also important -- and that's something that's still largely opaque here. It's simply not a set of numbers you can treat with any confidence.


    Well I got my copy, and I don't care about what the naysayers say...! Once again on the ABC News this morning, they had some so called expert saying that we shouldn't pirate these shoes because it's losing the producers money... whilst that may be true to an extent, he did indicate that we had no excuse because... Foxtel... Jesus Christ, I don't want to pay a subscription for one bloody show. Plus there's the risk of finding out about the show being drip fed onto the net, and ruining the experience...

      I download and watch now, buy the DVDs when they appear. It's not piracy, it's payment in arrears.

        Damn straight, I buy the box set of my favorite downloaded tv shows. I always DL the low quality eps as I have crappy net, then later when the Blu ray is out, I know I loved the show so have no problem paying full price to own it in HD.
        Rarely do I have a whole season downloaded and not bought when available (Walking Dead S4 is the deal breaker, so bad.. so so bad)

      Yeah man, we shouldn't pirate these shoes. You gotta pay for comfy footwear.

      How dare you pirate shoes and rob the sweat shops of profit!!

      On a side note, while it sounds low, 11% of the population is actually quite high and is statistically relevant. It depends how you define your sample size and population.

        It's not 11% of the population, it's 11% of the 2% of people that downloaded the show. That's 2103 people in Australia that downloaded it, according to those stats.

          Like I said, it depends on the definition of population.
          Is it reasonable that your sample is the whole Australian population? Why not compare it to world population? Or population who pirates? Or population who has a computer and doesn't use itunes???
          It's arbitrary until you define the population. I use the word population here with respect to statistics not human numbers.

            Oh, OK, sorry. Misread your point. Thanks for clarifying :)

      Someone has probably answered this elsewhere on the Internet, but why don't the big TV producers consider offering streams of new shows with an ad roll at the beginning? I'd be happy to sit through a 30 second ad to 'legally' stream new episodes... Perhaps there just isn't any money in streaming ads?

        no definitely no money in streaming ad's.

        Youtube definitely doesn't make money doing that :P

        Its because they wouldnt get the same huge injections of funds they get now from content distribution, they are also extremely slow to adapt to a rapidly changing market.

        Netflix gets it and is thriving, now we just need it legally in Australia.

        It's called Hulu and it already exists.

        It's not run as profitably as network TV is yet, but that was in part due to it's original mandate. The issue is regionalised advertising then, US advertisers don't want to pay to be shown to Australian viewers who can't buy their products etc.

        As well, the rights are also sold off in different regions so Hulu is technically only meant to broadcast to the US.

        That said, it's a good service and easily accessible to Aussie residents.

          "US Advertisers don't want to pay to be shown [overseas]"... bollocks.

          Product placement in movies. Gives products international exposure, and the companies involved pay for the privilege. Actor asks for a product by name? Bond drives a particular car? That's product placement and it's advertising built-in to the show.

          If GoT had sword-making blacksmiths called Beretta, Remington, or even Heckler & Koch... or had a new whiskey called Jimmie Strider or White Douglas... or served beer from a barrel with four X's on it... we'd have international advertising.

            That's helpful if you have an international product, not all advertisers do.

            Grab a tunneling program, watch a few episodes of Hulu and let me know how many products you could possibly buy from Australia and you'd be rather surprised. Credit card companies, insurance, American restaurant chains...

            These are companies paying to be marketed to a certain region where they do business. Why would they want to pay for a country that they don't do business with?

            Of course there are quite a few multinationals who will benefit no matter who watches the ad, but generally they'll get cheaper advertising rates outside of the US. A lot of them also seem to focus on broader marketing, where as Hulu is pushing a model similar to what Cinemas used to do and tailoring ads somewhat more to a very specific target audience.

        Yeah, I've seen plenty of this type of ad on my... erm... acquired shows... Some are quite unobtrusive, but there are quite a lot that insist on flashing and moving around to keep your attention. Could be a double edged sword there, but certainly worth a try... :)

    Used to buy it via iTunes. Cant do that now and dont have Foxtel. Guess i only have 1 option left.....

      exactly. I bought all previous seasons on iTunes and happily did the right thing. but now after foxtel stitched up the exclusivity......downloaded the new ep last night and watched it in all its pirated glory.

      i have foxtel but downloaded it anyway

      i got home at odd hours and its right there within 5 mins of when i want to watch it

      Not watch it? Or is that an infringement of your human rights?

        However im not going to buy a service from a monopoly if I don't need to. Ill buy the blurays to support the show, but ill be damned if im going to give my money to Foxtel for making it an exclusive and removing all options i used to have.

    2% is a huge sample size, the figures above give only 0.6 percent interval at 99% confidence. That's more accurate than any election poll or Neilson TV ratings. As for the time period they collected, while they don't say a period explicitly, they do say 'collected over the day', which would at minimum imply until US midnight the day of release (which should bias it towards US download percentage, not ours), or over a 24 hour period.

      This. It's not statistically "nonsense." It's standard statistics, the same sort used to survey everything else. Given a large population, take a smaller but still large and statistically significant sample. Any sample (or subsample) over a thousand or so can generally be assumed to be reasonably accurate.

      This does assume that the sample is representative, in other words that it was actually spread out over the day.

      If you want statistical nonsense, look for small-sample studies of the sort often used in social studies and for herbal "medicines."

      With regard to identifying country of origin, it's more likely to skew the sample in our favour (i.e. show fewer Australian addresses than is actually the case) due to widespread use of VPNs and similar services to defeat geoblocking in Australia.

      You are absolutely correct. Angus needs to understand statistics before committing to moral outrage.
      Clearly by other comments here, the quality and accuracy of reporting is irrelevant.

      There are definitely methodology issues, but sample size isn't one of them. But getting outraged about 'dodgy statistics' and clearly having zero knowledge of even like third week of first year stats is pretty standard in the Aussie media sphere.

    Why don't we count those stealing HBO Go subscriptions? Surely that puts the USA right up the top? If everyone over there wasn't either buying access to, or using their girlfriends aunts HBO code, etc, I doubt HBO Go would crash when it was uploaded.

    Also can those arseholes at Torrenfreak stop dobbing Aussies in? It just gives the papers and politicians more fuel to throw our rights and freedoms on the bonfire.

    Last edited 08/04/14 9:43 am

    We'll buy it on Blu Ray when it comes out, we uses to buy it on iTunes with a season pass and legally download each episode as it was released, but as stated above Fuxtel has ruined that, so I was downloading it last night along with many others.
    But let's not forget that while Fuxtel locked up the rights, bloody HBO let them do it, so they are just as much to blame as Fuxtel.

    As great as all that is, the first episode of season 4 was so damn boring. Nothing happened! No storyline was introduced, no set-up for the rest of the season, nothing. But yeah, piracy is bad, and you should all feel bad.


      The entire episode was a setup for the rest of the season.

      Well, I think Arya finding and killing one of the people on her sleepy-time list and an Epic pub battle featuring The Hound isn't "nothing'. SO there was plenty happening of interest.

        As great as Arya's scene was, it was only a single incident. So let me revise, if that pleases you: "One interesting thing happened in an hour-long episode."

    The producers lose money?

    The episode had the highest rating ever for HBO beating the Sopranos series finale.

    And it kills it every year in the DVD/Bluray sales. They're not losing anything.

    Love how everyone is making excuses for stealing IP.

    "Oh , i used to guy it on Itunes but since you can only do it on Fox now I STEAL it"

    Thats like saying I used to by E10 Petrol from Mobil and now only Shell sell E10 so I steal Premium Unleaded from Caltex.

      OR, it's like saying:

      I used to buy E10 from Mobil for $0.99/L, but then BP bought all the E10 in Australia and will only sell it to you if you also sign up to buy $80 worth of service station sandwiches each month.

      So now I get 100 octane piped straight into my house through a network of my peers' pipes for free.

        So stealing , sounds fair.

        Its more like saying; "i used to fill up my ford with petrol from BP, but now, Mobil have exclusive rights to petrol".
        However, Mobil petrol only works on cars manufactured by Mobil, so now you have to rent a Mobil car to go anywhere.

        Then saying "i'll just use my solar powered car instead".
        The whole point being so you can drive to the store to buy a product (being GOT)

        Last edited 08/04/14 10:15 pm

      It's not stealing, it's pirating (technically, "copyright infringement").

      In order for it to be "stealing IP", the IP would need to be sold (or re-sold) as the seller's own property without the true owner's consent or acknowledging them as the true owner. If the IP is being given away for free by someone who's allowed to view it (but not redistribute it), it's not theft, but violation of the exclusive rights granted to the IP owner under copyright.

      In your example, it's the difference between buying E10 from Shell and selling it as Mobile E10, and buying Premium from Caltex, diluting with ethanol and giving it away for free as Inappropriate Kangaroo E10. Sort of. The analogy is always going to be flawed, because copyright infringement isn't theft.

    Why don't we just add Game of Thrones to the anti-siphoning list? Or provide specific funding to the ABC to put it on iView - especially considering how much money they are saving by not having to pay for anything from the BBC other than Doctor Who now that Foxtel stitched that content up as well? I don't watch - or even like - GoT, but I'm happy for my tax dollars to go to putting it on to iView if the issue really is about cutting down on piracy. Unless of course, it's not piracy that's the problem, but very profitable organisations wanting to be even more profitable, and piracy is but a symptom of a problem, and not the problem itself (in which case, pirate away GoT fans).

      Really nice idea, but Foxtel want Game of Thrones all to themselves in order to increase their own subscriber numbers. So I highly doubt that GoT will ever have a chance at appearing on iView when Foxtel is still around. :c

      Last edited 08/04/14 11:51 am

        Exactly, while foxtel own the rights and continue to charge HUGE prices to get it, people will continue to download it as the only option is to pay more than the box sets cost EACH MONTH just to watch it.

        Its not an excuse, but it is a reason.

    Its obvious that HBO and GOT creators don't care, otherwise they wouldn't have given Foxtel exclusive rights.

      Gee , fancy a company selling its products to make money. The hide of them.

        Or you know, they could sell it to more places and reach more of the population. It's the difference between a monopoly and free market competition...

    What do you expect. If Foxtel are gonna monopolise the market and make is un accessible to the average Australian joe Who dont have foxtel or are locked into optus contracts. or maybe live in remote areas. Then serves HBO and FOXTEL right for doing a back room deal that will ultimly in the end piss a lot of fans off. In turn Loosing so much revenue From I tunes, Google play, Amazon and other sites.

    And I suggest if HBO want to do the right thing by its fans and keep its rating up and want a season 5 to take place it should cancel its deal with foxtel and get it onto itunes.

    What foxtel has done is complete wrong and has forced people to obtain this show illegal.

    I'd like to see any Foxtel subscription stats to see if they have indeed had a spike in anticipation of GoT or not.

    where can i download it?

      Not the most recent of articles, but the facts haven't changed too much:

      install an app - point web browser at a 'tracker site' - download a torrent file (a text file that tells the torrent app where all the good bits are) - put torrent file into the torrent app you installed - wait until file is downloaded (usually as .mp4 or .avi) by the torrent app and watch.

      Trickiest part is probably finding a decent tracker site, but if you just type Game of Thrones s04e01 into google the trackers will show up. Tracker site called kickass seems to be popular from what I can gather, but I wouldn't know as I just throw my money at Rupie every month :-)

      Last edited 09/04/14 4:10 pm

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