Put it down to the "Netflix effect". Or the Dallas Buyer's Club decision. Or maybe Australia's data retention laws (which has nothing to do with catching pirates — yet.) Whatever the reason, online piracy has dropped significantly in Australia for the first time in years. That rousing "yo ho-ho!" you just heard came from rights holders around the country.
Pirate skull image from Shutterstock
According to new data released by the IP Awareness Foundation, Australia's love affair with online piracy is on the decline. Its most recent survey revealed that 25 percent of Australian adults aged 18-64 are active pirates, down from 29 percent in the previous year.
The fall occurred across both "casual" and "persistent" pirates, with the latter receiving the biggest drop overall. You can see the results in the below graph:
While a four per cent drop might not look massive on paper, it follows years of nothing but dramatic growth. In this context, even staying stagnant would have to be seen as a victory.
This is the second national survey in as many months to reveal a reduction in Australian piracy numbers. In September, a poll conducted by Choice found the number of people illegally downloading film and TV shows has dipped from 23 per cent to 17 per cent.
What is interesting about these two polls are the disparate organisations behind them. Choice is a consumer advocacy group that is very much against stricter piracy laws, whereas the IP Awareness Foundation's stakeholders include cinemas, film distributors and broadcasters. In other words, despite being on opposite sides of the debate, their results are quite similar. Hmm.
So why the drop? The IP Awareness Foundation attributes this sudden reversal to a range of factors, including the government's impending anti-piracy code and the launch of affordable streaming services such as Netflix. From the organisation's director, Lori Flekse:
“This fall in piracy rates is definitely largely attributable to the combination of the government’s new legislation, plus the ongoing efforts of the creative industries to continue delivering great content at accessible prices to Australian consumers and the work being done to educate consumers about the impact of copyright theft."
Naturally, Netflix has been quick to champion itself as a slayer of online piracy, but we need to be cautious of drawing definitive links here. As we've noted in the past, any survey relating to illegal activity (or activities deemed to be illegal) must be taken with a grain of salt. Simply put, when a stranger calls you out of the blue and asks about your piracy habits, the temptation to lie is rather high.
With that said, the timing of the piracy drop certainly seems to suggest that cause and effect might be at play here. Anecdotally, a large number of my friends and associates have weaned themselves off torrent sites after signing up to legal alternatives. For most of them, it's not even about "doing the right thing" — it's just easier to plonk down in front of the telly and fire up Netflix/Presto/Stan.
This seems to be supported by the IP Awareness Foundation's survey. 33% of "reformed" pirates identified legal alternatives as the main reason for stopping, followed by moral considerations (21%), self interest (16%) and no longer having time (13%).
In an amusing parallel to real-life 18th century piracy, those who refuse to adapt to the changing tides are apparently pirating more than ever. According to the report, persistent pirates "continue to maintain high levels of frequency with 40% claiming to be pirating more than they did 12 months ago."
Whether you believe these statistics are accurate or not, there can be little doubt that the growth of piracy is being sorely tested. With tough new anti-piracy laws on the horizon and legal alternatives becoming cheaper and more accessible, it seems that the Golden Age of online piracy could already be behind us. It was good while it lasted, mateys.
[Via Torrent Freak]