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Copyright cartel: want to cut filesharing by 40%? Here’s how

Downloading unauthorised content is dominated by younger and wealthier Australians, but they would be interested in cheaper content made available more quickly, new polling from Essential Research shows.

Last week Essential asked respondents about whether they engaged in filesharing and other forms of free downloading of content, and their attitudes towards it. Thirty two per cent of respondents admitted to downloading material for free online, with 61% saying they did not. But 48% of people under 35 said they did, much higher than older respondents.

And filesharing increased with income, the Essential data showed: the highest levels were reported by those in the highest income bracket, with 40% of people earning more than $1600 a week saying they downloaded material for free, compared to only 26% of those on incomes below $600 a week.

While this presumably reflects lower income households having fewer online-linked devices and smaller internet access plans, even those on higher-middle incomes, $1000-1600 a week, downloaded less — 33% — than those on greater incomes.

Why do people download? Out of those who say they download, they say it’s not particularly because it’s free: 18% nominate that as a reason, 9% because they say movies are too expensive. The most commonly identified reason for filesharing or other forms of downloading content was to obtain television or movie content not yet available in Australia, identified as a reason by 37% of those who downloaded. Another 21% nominated convenience of access.

Accessing unavailable content was particularly important for younger people — 48% of downloaders under 35 nominated that reason, compared to only 19% of older filesharers, although the latter were more likely to refer to convenience.

The role of convenience and access is further strengthened by the response about how current downloaders would react if the way content was made available was changed. Forty two per cent of filesharers said they would be ready to pay for content if it was made available across the world at the same time, and was available for a low price. They were roughly split evenly between those who’d be willing to pay a subscription to get access to content and those who’d pay à la carte.

Interestingly, older downloaders were most resistant to paying for content — 48% of downloaders over 55 said they’d keep on downloading for free even if cheaper content was more quickly available, compared to 39% of those under 35. It also rises with income — those on the lowest incomes were most willing to pay for content; those on higher incomes, significantly less so, especially middle-income earners.

While the data may reflect an element of underreporting by people who don’t want to admit to filesharing, even anonymously, it suggests that content companies could slash “piracy” nearly in half by making content available without delays and at a lower price — particularly given the extraordinary level of gouging that is inflicted on Australian consumers, compelled to pay often twice as much for music on iTunes as American users, and particularly given younger users are most open to paying for content.

The results also suggest copyright industry attempts to convince consumers that downloading is a form of theft may fall on deaf ears — the free nature of “pirate” content is less of an issue than what is perceived as the unwillingness of content owners to provide content to consumers at the same time across markets.

As to whether such results would encourage the copyright industry to actually try giving consumers what they want rather than attempting to impose a surveillance state on the internet, that’s another matter. There’s little evidence so far the industry pays attention to what’s happening in the real world rather than what it would prefer to be happening.

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  • 1
    Schoo M
    Posted Tuesday, 8 May 2012 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    I freely admit to downloading/streaming TV shows and occasionally, movies. I dont do this to rip off producers or artists, on the contrary, if I enjoy what I see, I will always buy the DVD when it appears two years later in JB Hi Fi. I dont share the files and generally delete once I am done.

    I download because I want to see things in a reasonable time, without being interrupted by ads for Dancing with Stars, in correct order and before 12.30 am on a Tuesday morning (Hello, Arrested Development)

    TV networks, clearly do not rely on the revenue they generate from showing my programs of choice at stupid oclock in the morning at a psychotic schedule so I’ll leave them to show 99 episodes of the Big Bang Theory or Two and a Half Jokes and I’ll do my own thing…

    Case in point - Mad Men… its hard to go 12 hours on the internet without getting spoiled on the developments of an episode - let alone the 6 weeks - 12 months delay that can occur.

    Finally, internet providers arent going to do much to police this sort of activity - why on earth would you need a 100 gig a month if you werent downloading?

    Networks have been told time and time again how to capture this market (I would happily pay for a timely, reliable service) but they dont care. I hope they find comfort with Gerry Harvey et al whinging about the evil, nasty internet.. I’m off to watch Mad Men

  • 2
    smashman42
    Posted Tuesday, 8 May 2012 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    I’d definitely pay for something that’d let me stream to my Linux PVRs or my android devices (and not hobble the HDMI ports like Play Movies does), I’d be in it for TV shows in a heartbeat!

    It is that 6-12mth wait that kills it for me, some of my fav shows were available on DVD in Australia before the local networks finished airing them at random times in the middle of the night! (SG-U for example) Only super popular stuff gets “fast tracked” to be roughly a week behind & that is barely tolerable, should be within 24hrs given time zone differences.

    The first mob to fix this so late to the party problem & get a fairly priced global business model (say, subscriptions everywhere are in USD or Euro) will kill all their stuck in the 80s “we’ll sue you for using your betamax tapes to record our content” competitors.

    Movies, are at least generally worldwide releases these days or at worst a week behind (apart from the odd one here & there) & while the local Civic video still exists & does $2 new releases on Tuesdays I’m not too fussed.

  • 3
    Posted Tuesday, 8 May 2012 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    As another example of the “technology tax” imposed on us by large corporations, Australians are currently paying up to three times the paperback price for ebooks from some of the big publishers. At Amazon, $7.99 for the new paperback, but over $20 for the ebook (which one isn’t allowed to resell, reformat for convenience or transferability between devices, and which according to the contract one doesn’t actually own, only rent, despite pressing the Buy button each time you pay for an ebook).

    Australian and NZ customers have been extorted in the ebook market since geographic limitations were imposed. We read a lot, so we’re good customers, but hey, who needs good customers, when you can just rip them off and block them from buying more of your products? Business decisions like these are why they pay the CEOs the big bucks..

  • 4
    Meski
    Posted Tuesday, 8 May 2012 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    @Schoom - but bittorrenting kind of relies on outgoing shares to work properly. The shame is that AFACT and the MPAA aren’t realising that they could monetise this, and 40% of people wouldn’t mind. Possibly more.

  • 5
    Scott
    Posted Tuesday, 8 May 2012 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    it suggests that content companies could slash “piracy” nearly in half by making content available without delays and at a lower price — particularly given the extraordinary level of gouging that is inflicted on Australian consumers, compelled to pay often twice as much for music on iTunes as American users, and particularly given younger users are most open to paying for content.”

    Never a truer word!!

    I buy iTunes music because I’m happy to pay (even though I know I’m getting ripped compared to iTunes USA) and there are worldwide release dates on Music.

    The movie and TV industries still haven’t adapted, so I’m not going to wait to watch the latest e.g. True Blood - I’m going to find a torrent. But if iTunes had delivered it at the same time globally like they do music, they would have got my True Blood money.

    ps tip of the century if you’re an Aussie iTunes user - buy vouchers, don’t use your credit card. They are always on 20% off at places like 7Eleven or Coles. Hopefully the GOVT inquiry into why we pay so much for software and digital music/movies will fix this long term though.

  • 6
    Mark from Melbourne
    Posted Tuesday, 8 May 2012 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    Well, duh…

  • 7
    Tim nash
    Posted Tuesday, 8 May 2012 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    I am actually a serial downloader.

    Ever since pirate bay has existed I have downloaded movies, games, books and music.

    But somewhere along the line I got an Iphone and discovered Itunes, and then Steam for games.

    Now I sometimes pay for music and always pay for computer games.

    Movies I have no scruples, I just download whatever is out there.. some of these movies have more than 3000 seeders for god sake.

    TV shows like Breaking bad, Borgias, Rome, Community they are just recorded from Foxtel watermarks and all, so its not like your even getting the box set..your just getting foxtel on your computer.

    I will always download the TV stuff for free, maybe curb my Movie appetite but games, music, and c0mputer games I seriously changed my ways because its available now!

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