by Content Cafe — January 28, 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'll be exploring with leaders across the content industry.
I’m the Executive Director of Creative Content Australia, a non-profit organisation, supported by all facets of the Australian production, distribution and exhibition industry. CCA promotes the value of creative copyright and raises awareness about the impact of screen content piracy on the creative industries.
In the past week I’ve seen two incredible Australian movies in the cinema: The Dry and Penguin Bloom. At home I’m watching and loving the Fran Leibowitz/Martin Scorsese documentary series Pretend It’s a City on Netflix and the thrilling, star-driven drama series The Undoing on Foxtel.
In Australia CCA has tracked piracy incidence and frequency since 2008, and despite some ebbs and flows over the years, around one in four Australians aged 12 years and over continue to pirate screen content. While this reality contradicts the perception that “everybody does it”, the volume of illegal streams and downloads poses a solid threat to the viability and sustainability of many content production, distribution and exhibition companies.
There are sufficient global research studies proving the impact that piracy has on box office revenue but, for me, the hidden danger lies in the loss of confidence of investors who are less likely to finance films when a proportion of their returns are likely to be obliterated by piracy.
Convincing consumers that piracy is not only bad for the creative industry and the livelihood of hard-working content creators but it’s also bad for them. The piracy ecosystem is built on making money from stolen screen content and illegal pirate sites have long been associated with malware and cybercrime. Often uninformed of the risks, users of these sites are baited into trying something they think is free or cheap but comes with a hidden cost: fraud, viruses, loss of personal data and exposure to potentially unwanted programs or unsavoury online activity such as gambling and pornography.
Deterrence is best achieved through a balance of legislation and education. We rely on Government to ensure adequate legislative copyright protections and sufficient penalties; particularly for people who monetise access to illegally-accessed screen content. Creative industries in turn provide consumers with an appreciation of the role copyright plays in the creative economy, the impact of content piracy on the industry and the inherent dangers of malware on piracy sites. Finally, parents and educators can help young Australians to understand their part in the creative eco-system and encourage access to legal screen content.
Australia is considered to be a world leader in both legislative advances and the cooperation of creative industry organisations and companies across production, post production, financing, distribution, exhibition and broadcast. Creative Content Australia unites this broad cross section of industry sectors, providing a cohesive voice to communicate the significance of our industry and its contribution to Australia’s economy and society.
Australia’s site-blocking legislation came into effect in 2015 and allows the Federal Court to order ISP’s to disable overseas websites that have the “primary purpose” of facilitating copyright infringement. Across numerous court actions brought forward by rightsholders, over 519 sites and 1,698 domains have been blocked to date. Additionally, in a world first, Google Australia agreed to voluntarily de-index websites engaging in piracy, including proxy and mirror sites, after pirates were able to bypass initial attempts to remove them from search results.
As CCA Chair and Village Roadshow co-founder and Graham Burke told the Sydney Morning Herald in 2020, “Piracy has been made a whole lot harder because of site-blocking, but there’s a loophole which is the mirror or proxy sites that they have developed. This is shutting down that loophole and it’s massive.”
I receive emails weekly from Australian filmmakers who have found illegal copies of their films online and write asking what they can do to stem the flow of revenue to illegal site operators. Sadly, I have to tell them that there is almost nothing they can do. The sites distributing their film are based offshore and, even if they have been subject to a site-blocking order via the Australian courts, other proxy or mirror sites spring up quickly. It’s a tough way for filmmakers – who sometimes enjoyed the dubious distinction of having a film that reached large global audiences through piracy – to discover that once a film is on the web there is no way it can ever be removed. Pirates and fans alike will find a way to access it if they want to see it without paying.