Australians are illegally downloading much less content than they used to — but it has nothing to do with laws to block piracy websites. Enter Netflix.

The results of a Communications Department survey published on Monday show that when given the option of timely legal content, Australians will pay for what they watch. They survey was conducted during a couple of weeks in March this year, mostly through online interviews with 2405 people over 12 years old.

The number of Australians accessing infringing films, TV shows and music from piracy sites dropped in the first three months of this year compared to the same period in 2015 from 26% to 23%. Just 6% of people exclusively consume content this way.

Although 39% of Australians illegally downloaded a film in the first three months of the year, that number has dropped significantly from the 48% result last year. The number of Australians illegally downloading TV shows also declined, from 33% to 26%.

The report found that this coincided with a rise in the use of streaming services. While there was a noticeable decline in people using YouTube or buying TV shows and films from iTunes, Netflix had shot up in popularity, from 9% to 27% this year. Other streaming services like Stan, and Foxtel Play were also increasingly popular.

The first survey was conducted around the time of the launch of Netflix and its rivals in the first half of 2015.

Half of those who switched to streaming services said they were now more convenient. A total of 43% of those who pirated content said they would stop if it were more affordable to buy legitimate content, and 35% of people who would stop if content were made available in Australia at the same time as it was made available everywhere else.

The report noted that all of the government’s moves to limit piracy, which it pursued with such vigour in the first two years of the Abbott government — such as the site-blocking bill and the failed attempt at a notice scheme to require internet service providers to warn infringers to stop — had no impact on the results because they hadn’t yet been used to stop piracy.

There have been several court cases filed seeking to block piracy websites — including some that have been taken down already by international law enforcement — but no judgment has yet been handed down in any of the cases so far.

Attempts to force ISPs to send notices to customers who illegally download content have so far gone nowhere.

Peter Fray

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