Internet Piracy: When are we happy to pay for content?
The Australian government recently proposed that Internet Services Providers (ISPs) should be forced to compel users to stop illegal downloads – but is this a realistic strategy?
The draft proposal from Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Attorney General George Brandis raises a lot of questions. How can ISPs keep track of pirates? Why should they, rather than the owners of the content themselves, shoulder the responsibility? And ultimately, how is tracking down the pirates going to impact regular internet users?
We’ll answer all these questions and more in today’s post.
What counts as internet piracy?
Many of the Seebo users we talk to are confused about what types of internet usages actually count as piracy. So let us break it down:
|Downloading torrented files to your hard drive||Illegal|
|Transferring (legal or illegally) downloaded files on to portable hard drives and sharing with friends||Illegal|
|Bringing cheap movie DVDs back from holiday||Illegal|
|Watching full length TV shows and the latest films on YouTube and other streaming sites||Legal*|
|Watching On Demand content over the internet||Legal|
*Although unauthorised uploading of this type of content is illegal.
It’s not actually a crime to download content from unauthorised sites for personal use, the Attorney Generals department confirmed, though the copyright owner can take civil action.
It’s no wonder people are confused! Put simply it is illegal to transfer content from ‘offline’ to ‘online’ – and vice versa. But not illegal to simply watch a piece of content online. Got it?
Why are the government cracking down on internet pirates?
In a recent interview with the SMH, Liberal Senator Zed Seselja explained that the recent proposal was an attempt to reinforce copyright law and protect the rights of content creators. But several commentators have suggested there are different motives at play. Perhaps the government is attempting to drive audiences back to cinemas or shore up the flagging broadcast TV industry.
“I am a passionate defender of the internet and freedom of the internet but freedom of the internet doesn’t mean freedom to steal. The fundamental problem we’ve got is that internet piracy is a big issue – there are billions of dollars globally being stolen.” Malcolm Turnbull in a recent interview with the ABC.
But as the laws tighten internet users grow increasingly unhappy about being forced to pay through the nose for the privilege of downloading content legally – especially given Australian prices are often 50% higher* than in the US. This is known as price gouging in the industry and essentially means that some of the big players charge us more to download the same content – why? Because they can!
(*Australians pay 50 per cent more than US consumers on iTunes for the Top 50 songs according to consumer group CHOICE.)
To many it feels like this potential legislation is once again about protecting the content producers, distributors and broadcasters – rather than supporting the actual viewers.
What can the ISPs really do?
Tackling Internet piracy is no easy challenge for the ISPs. While individual account tracking is possible – the cost of keeping tabs on potentially millions of users will be astronomical. These costs will inevitably be transferred to us, the users – with increased data fees and less competition, as the high cost could drive the small players out of the market.
And while the ISPs might be able to crack down on the small time, occasional illegal downloads – the larger more sophisticated pirates are likely to always be one step ahead.
Although Brandis claims that many ISPs have been open to the proposal, it seems only those with a vested interest are really going to willingly pay ball. Telstra, Brandis tells us, have been ‘extremely co-operative’, but is this really a surprise given their investment in paid subscription service Foxtel?
Ultimately we believe that asking ISPs to deal with this problem is neither realistic nor logical.
Will we ever be willing to pay?
At Seebo we talk regularly with our customers and the general feedback is that they’re happy to pay for content – but only if it meets certain criteria.
As a recent article in Mashable pointed out, the reason behind in Australia has always been “the absence of a company which gives decent access to U.S. TV shows and movies as they go to air” The average internet user wants:
- A service that’s easy to use, fast and reliable – Would you pay more to avoid constant buffering and disconnects during your favourite show?
- Cinema quality content they can watch in their lounge room – Who’s going to watch a poor quality pirated DVD if they can get a high quality experience for a similar price?
- Tailored services and packages – Why should I pay for a 24-month pack of programs when I just want to catch the one show I like?
- Affordable charges – Why should Australian viewers pay twice as much as their friends in America and Europe?
Another huge issue is timeliness. In Australia recently, series four of the Game of Throne took an eternity to migrate from traditional broadcast channels on to download sites like iTunes.
Foxtel’s exclusive deal with HBO makes the show only available to those with a subscription during the season’s run. So as a major fan, I endured the agonising wait to download the show legally and do the right thing. Believe me resorting to an illegal download was a tempting option.
Realistically shows like this can no longer be ‘contained’ – they are global events with spoilers, discussions and clips shared around the internet within hours. We want what we want when we want and at an affordable price.
“If you make content easily accessible and affordable, people won’t resort to piracy.” Senator Larissa Waters, Greens – QLD
How can we transform pirates into payers?
We all remember Napster. Originally founded as a pioneering peer-to-peer file sharing services, the company ran into legal difficulties over copyright infringement, ceased operations and was eventually brought out by Roxio.
Since then services like Spotify have come to dominate the downloadable (now streaming) music industry.
Spotify offers users two simple options:
1) Free access to all music content – but you get ads.
2) Pay a low monthly fee to eliminate ads
The site also integrates cleverly with Social Media – encouraging peer-to-peer recommendation rather than sharing. And can be accessed on all devices.
By offering a great quality service, being easily accessible and monetising in an intelligent way the site has grown quickly to become a global phenomenon.
The final word
At Seebo, we’re not sure that heavy government regulation is the answer in this age of connectivity. Rather, we feel, that if content producers delivered a faster, more affordable and reliable service – viewers would be more willing to pay.
Perhaps instead of investing in costly tracking solutions, the money would be better sent creating a better service.
Over to you
Have you ever pirated a show? What were your reasons? What would it take for you to pay for content? We’d love to hear your comments below.
About the author: Patrick Tyers – Sales and Marketing Manager at Seebo Networks
Pat Tyers is a marketing professional whose passion is finding innovative ways to take brands, products and concepts to market. Pat has experience with a wide range of marketing strategies and techniques deployed across different markets and industries. Pat has immersed himself in the entertainment industry, with a particular focus on new innovations in in-home entertainment and the revolution of the humble TV set.