Most Australians consumers fear they will face higher Internet bills if Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are forced to shoulder the responsibility for identifying, monitoring and punishing people who illegally download content from the Internet, according to extensive new research released by trade body the Communications Alliance.
The research shows that most Australians agree the illegal downloading of content from the Internet is a national problem, but see early availability of affordable content as a key to combating the so-called ‘piracy’.
Other findings include that:
More consumers favour market-based remedies to combat illegal downloading, as opposed to regulatory or legislative measures; and
Australians believe they are paying more than 200 per cent more than the ‘optimal price’ for downloaded television episodes.
The report was undertaken by JWS Research and included a national online survey of 1,500 respondents, conducted between October 22nd and 27th this year.
Communications Alliance CEO, John Stanton, said the report highlighted that 55 per cent of Australian agree that illegal downloads are a problem in Australia, and a majority of Australians recognise that content creators – writers and creative artists of many descriptions – are the hardest hit by the illegal activity.
But when asked whether stronger legislation was needed to combat piracy, two- thirds of Australians (66 per cent) believed that if content distributors offered cheaper, fairer pricing, people would not download illegally. Sixty per cent of respondents believed that if content was made available in the same time as it is available elsewhere, this would also act against the practice of illegal downloads.
“This research comes as the Government considers responses to its discussion paper on online copyright policy options. It paints a picture not of a nation of rampant pirates, but rather a majority of people who agree that action taken should include steps to reduce the market distortions that contribute to piracy,” noted Stanton.
He also acknowledged that some rights holders have made efforts during the past year to improve availability and pricing.
“There is a strong alignment in many of the viewpoints of those surveyed and the major Internet Service Provider (ISP) members of Communications Alliance. ISPs do not condone or authorise online copyright infringement, nor accept that concerns over pricing are a justification for improper behaviour. ISPs are committed to finding equitable and practical approaches to combat it – preferably in cooperation with Rights Holders,” he advised.
“In our submissions to Government on these issues we have stressed the need for a multi-faceted approach to online copyright infringement – a scenario in which all stakeholders have a constructive role to play. For our part, this has included moving toward a cooperative ‘follow-the-money’ strategy designed to restrict the advertising revenues flowing to websites that promote or facilitate online copyright infringement,” he explained,
He noted that 30 per cent of respondents to the survey felt that online copyright infringement in Australia was either “not much of a problem” or not a problem at all. The existence of this minority – most typically young, male, tech-savvy and familiar with downloading – further highlighted the need for public education to form part of any multi-faceted solution.
A pricing sensitivity model, derived from survey responses, indicated that in respondents’ minds the ideal price for a downloaded television episode is in the range of A$1.20 to $1.70. This compares with the current local HD download per-episode price of $3.49.
When asked in the latest research about alternative (i.e. non-regulatory) approaches to combat online copyright infringement:
79 per cent of respondents felt there needed to be continuous improvement in the availability and cost of online content to Australian consumers;
62 per cent supported the creation of an educational programme, with ISPs sending up to three notices to alleged infringers; and
60 per cent agreed that Rights Holders should reimburse the reasonable costs of ISPs that assist them in fighting piracy.