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Industry pitches piracy research ahead of Attorney General meeting

Lobbying paper points the bone at Aussies, again

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Sixty percent of Australians don’t use downloading or streaming sites, but that’s not the way the latest research into piracy activity in this country is being spun.

The research that gave nearly two-thirds of us clean hands in the piracy debate – and seems to ignore the growth in legal streaming services like the ABC’s iView, FetchTV and others – is mainly being used to wag the finger at Australians because most of us don’t see ourselves as part of the problem.

We are, apparently, such hypocrites. The research, here, helpfully highlights the talking point that 74 percent of respondents don’t think they’re part of the problem, and that 72 percent agree that piracy harms the industry, which seems reasonable enough if, as the research also states, most of the respondents aren’t involved in piracy.

Is that how the study is reported stories like this from News? Of course not: “Australians are in denial about the impact of piracy on the creative industries” thunders the Australian (directly contradicting the number of people that think piracy harms industries).

The listing of sites visited by respondents to the research should, in fact, be encouraging for the creative industries, since it seems to indicate that we’re willing to take the legal option if it’s available. LimeWire usage fell by six percent between 2009 and 2011; while the PirateBay rose to eight percent and BitTorrent to five percent, the ABC (iView) matched PirateBay at eight percent, Channel 10 reached five percent, and even BigPond’s subscriber videos were mentioned by three percent of respondents.

Of the services named, the biggie was YouTube: sure, there’s a fair amount of infringing material there, but also a lot that’s not (and if the content industries wish to deal with YouTube, then Google should be the target rather than the users). However, if the research is accurate, and if there’s a high overlap within usage of illegal sites, you would have a great deal of difficulty finding one in ten Australians who routinely visit illegal download sites.

As the research itself finds: among its respondent base – which is skewed, since the quantitative data was gathered in online survey forms – only 11 percent self-identified as current file sharing users.

The research isn’t just a bit of newspaper fodder, however: it’s also a shot over the lobbying bows. The Attorney-General is holding a confab next week, and high on the industry’s list is to shift enforcement onto ISPs. So it’s no surprise that in the focus groups – six groups each of six individuals – the researchers found that “72% would cease infringing if they received a notice from their ISP”.

The research puts it this way: “Focus groups reveal ISPs seen to facilitate piracy but appear to show no responsibility”, a statement which seems to mirror the arguments the industry took to the Federal Court and had rebuffed. ®

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