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Debunking myths and misunderstandings about piracy

by Creative Content Australia

Last week an online publication ran an item which was highly critical of Creative Content Australia's The Price of Piracy campaign under the heading "Australia's dubious propaganda war on piracy is set to fail."

Writing in The New Daily  Mark Gambino made a series of claims and allegations which are simply wrong, misleading or unsupported by evidence.

He wrote: Screen advocate Creative Content Australia (CCA) has chosen to shame people who access pirated digital content by playing on ignorance and extolling tenuous truths.

We did not: Our purpose was to warn people of the severe risks of streaming or downloading content from illegal websites. Local and international research studies consistently show that content infringing sites are amongst the most hazardous places on the Internet.

One out of every three infringing screen content sites contains malware and users of these pirate websites are 28, yes, 28, times more likely to be exposed to hacking, viruses and other malicious activity than on legitimate content sites.

Malware can allow hackers to sell bank and credit card information on underground Internet exchanges or to use information to steal a user's identity. It also has been used to "lock" a computer and demand a ransom before returning access to the user, the widespread practice known as ransomware.

Research conducted in August 2017 by Creative Content Australia reveals that 12-17 year-olds  are up to four times more likely to have experienced a virus from downloading a piece of screen content from a pirate site or by clicking on an ad on those sites.

The article continues: The "hell of a risk" pirates face, which Brown outlines in the video, includes "stolen credit card details" and "even identity theft." Brown wraps up the list, saying it "seems like a high price to pay after all." But how true are the campaign's claims?

Let's get one thing straight: no one is buying pirated content online. That's not how digital piracy works.

Of course we know that people are not generally buying pirated content - although substantial numbers do pay or "donate" to join private torrent tracker groups that circulate pirated movies/TV shows and NZB sites that "curate" pirated content for their "subscribers." There is also exponential growth in the purchase of "pre-loaded" boxes that provide access to infringing content.

Cyber lockers hosting pirated material such as Rapidshare demand fees for faster download speeds. They are not solely used for pirated content, but that seems to be what many of them offer.

Gambino missed the point: when people are "not paying" for content, "they may pay a price" if their activity results in a virus or malware.

Later he writes:You cannot infect your computer by simply looking at malware disguised as an ad on a website.

Firstly, that's not what the ad suggests. Secondly, consumers can infect their computer more easily than Gambino's dismissive comments suggest. The online environment is evolving fast. A US study, called Digital Bait commissioned by Digital Citizens Alliance  sampled 800 sites dedicated to distributing infringing movies and TV shows.

It found that one out of every three contained malware and that 45% of malware was delivered by "drive-by-downloads" which invisibly download to a user's computer without requiring them to click on a link.

Gambino concludes by claiming box office revenue in Australia is on the rise and has been for the many years that Australians have been illegally downloading.

Screen Australia figures show that box office gross for 2016 rose by 2.7%, with ticket sales increasing by 1.2% on the year before. This is a constant trend, with each year setting a new record in 2016, the Australian cinema industry grossed about $1.4 billion.

Putting aside the fact that the annual box office figure is no indicator of the success of individual movies, Australian box office revenue dropped in 2011, 2013 and 2014 and will almost certainly fall in 2017 from the record high year in 2016. In the past six years admissions have not risen in line with BO revenues, and cinemas, which face the rising cost of technology, are doing it tough.

There are many reasons for the fluctuating performance of cinema, including the growing number of out-of-home entertainment options. Naturally, not every pirated film or TV show is a "lost sale" but CCA's research reflects that of other global studies that show that, without piracy, many more people would go to the movies or buy the film (online or physical).

The New Daily is owned by Industry Super Holdings, a superannuation industry umbrella group which bought the site last year from six super funds for nothing. The site is free and thus does not put a monetary value on its content.

So why should it take issue with a campaign which warns people to avoid the risks of visiting illegal sites and encourages them to pay a reasonable sum to reward the firms and many individuals who create and legally distribute and screen content?

Online piracy is one of the most challenging issues facing the creative industries today. If it continues at current rates, creative business will become unsustainable. Films cost millions of dollars to make and employ thousands of people. These costs are repaid by selling tickets and managing online rights.

It's an economic reality that people should be paid for their work, and while the creative industries might seem glamorous and disconnected from many in the 'real' world, they are workers with obligations and aspirations like everyone else.

Downloaders are increasingly challenging the whole economic construct of intellectual property production.

Free is not a viable business model.

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