by Content Café, 20 October 2021
Each month we hear from industry insiders in Australia and abroad to get their take on content piracy. Is content protection improving? How do we stop piracy? How does Australia compare to the rest of the world? These are some of the questions we are exploring with leaders across the content industry.
Annabelle Herd is the CEO of ARIA and PPCA. Annabelle came to ARIA and PPCA following a 16-year career in television at Network 10 where she most recently held the role of Chief Operating Officer leading the network’s broadcast operations; group strategy; corporate and internal communications; interstate markets; policy, regulatory, compliance and government affairs; and lobbying and stakeholder relations.
Prior to Network 10, she spent several years working at senior levels in Canberra with Government, which culminated in four years as Senior Advisor (Broadcasting and Copyright) and Acting Chief of Staff for then Minister for Communications and the Arts, Senator the Hon. Richard Alston. Her other Canberra-based roles included Government Lawyer within the intellectual property branch of the Attorney-General’s Department and Executive Officer of the Australian Digital Alliance and Australian Libraries Copyright Committee from 1996.
Annabelle received her Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Arts in Asian Studies from the Australian National University. She is a Council Member of the Australian Film, Television and Radio School (AFTRS). Annabelle was previously a board member of Save the Children Australia, Freeview Australia and Free TV Australia.
Who are you and what is your role in the creative industry eco-system?
My name is Annabelle Herd, I am the CEO of both the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) and PPCA. ARIA is the national industry association representing major and independent record labels, producers, manufacturers and distributors. We showcase and promote the incredible talent in the Australian music industry through the annual ARIA Awards and other events like Great Southern Nights. We also run the weekly ARIA Charts. ARIA advocates for the Australian music industry on copyright protection, music policy and industry COVID support. PPCA is a copyright collecting society that provides blanket licences for the use of sound recordings in Australia including on television, radio, and in businesses. Revenue generated from licensing is distributed to record labels and artists as payments for use of their works.
How does piracy affect the works of ARIA Members?
Most of ARIA’s members are small businesses, facing all the same challenges associated with any small business – particularly during the pandemic. Their investment in the creation and promotion of Australian recorded music comes with an inherent risk, which has been exacerbated by piracy. Piracy devalues their work and inhibits an artist’s ability to be rewarded and paid for their creative output.
The proliferation and ease of access to peer-to-peer networks and file-sharing technologies in the early 2000s led to mass online copyright infringement, which led to significant loss of income for Australian artists. Fortunately, since the advent of the digital music services – particularly streaming – this trend has reversed and consumers have numerous ways to access music legally, both through subscription and ad-funded models.
What do you think is the most significant impact of piracy on the creative industry?
The loss of income from copyright infringement makes it harder for artists and musicians to earn a sustainable income solely from their music. Many artists need to work multiple jobs to supplement their income and cannot just focus on making music. Touring and live music is the other major income source for artists, but that has been all but shut down since March 2020, leaving artists and the people they work with financially decimated. Each illegally accessed recording means the loss of a sale or, from a digital perspective, the loss of a potential user of a licensed music service. This reduces the ability of artists and creators to earn a living, and in some instances, to sustain a career.
The advent of mass piracy also led to changes in the way music is offered and consumed, and innovation in the services utilised by the industry. The recorded music industry was one of the first creative industries to embrace new business and distribution models. There are now over 20 local licensed online music services available to consumers, in different formats (digital download, streaming), across a range of devices and at different price points – including free.
In 2010, the physical market (including CDs and vinyl) made up 73% of the Australian music market. In 2020, physical products only accounted for 11% of revenue, while streaming revenue accounted for approximately 82% of the market (with the remainder digital downloads/sales).
What is the biggest challenge in the fight against piracy?
The nature of online piracy is constantly changing. It has evolved from illegally burned CDs, to downloading files via BitTorrent, to now the mass use of stream ripping from legal services. This means the strategies we use to combat piracy and policy must also constantly adapt.
Piracy is also a global issue – often the websites allowing users to download files are based overseas, with their operators based in another country, making it difficult for Australian sound recording copyright holders or artists to take action to remove their music and protect their IP. Advertising is a key revenue source for sites facilitating mass infringement, so we work with advertisers and publishers to keep brands off those sites and cut off their income stream from advertising.
How do you think Australia is measuring up in tackling piracy?
Australia has always been a nation of early adopters so we have been successful in shifting music lovers away from piracy and into using legitimate services. Since the early 00’s, there has been a massive increase in the number of online services offering music in different formats at different price points.
Greater availability and flexibility in how consumers can access legal content has helped reduce instances of piracy – but we are not out of the woods. The copyright infringement survey 2019 showed the number of respondents consuming pirated [music] content had halved in the previous year. In 2015, 46% of respondents admitted to accessing infringing [music] content – in 2019 this had dropped to 16%. More than 84% of respondents were consuming content from legitimate sources, with over 35% firmly against piracy.
Site-blocking legislation has been extremely important in giving copyright holders a tool to block websites whose primary function is to facilitate mass piracy, redirecting Australian consumers to legitimate sources.
Do you have any personal experiences or anecdotes about piracy?
It is so easy to access music legally now that I’m not sure why anyone would bother pirating music. Even before streaming I was always far too scared of nasty viruses to even attempt to head down the dark path!
What are you watching and recommending to friends at the moment?
Like everybody else I am absolutely loving Ted Lasso. It is so positive and shows that authentic and empathetic leadership works. Wakefield is an Australian drama that absolutely blew me away – the best humanisation I have seen of people dealing with severe mental illness with some beautiful local music.
I also loved The Newsreader – commercial TV news meets the 80s, what’s not to love!? There are also so many great music documentary films around at the moment, I loved Mystify about Michael Hutchence. In terms of music there are so many Australian artists doing great things at the moment. The Kid Laroi is one of the hottest artists in the world but I’m also loving Sycco, Budjerah, Rufus Du Sol and Genesis Owusu.
What excites you about the future of your industry sector?
I love the fact that, no matter your age or your taste, music forms a connection and creates emotion in a way that very few things in life can do. Music is something that you can turn to when you are feeling happy, sad, excited or anxious and it will be there for you. What is exciting about the future is that there are so many more ways we can integrate music into our lives, whether through streaming, gaming, fitness or other online platforms.
I am also so excited about the explosion of joy and energy that will happen when live music comes back properly. I think we have all missed live music events so much through the pandemic and we have so many great artists ready to get back to doing what they love as soon as it is safe to do so. Make sure you get out there, buy a ticket and enjoy singing along with the crowd!