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Graham Burke calls on tech giants to stop facilitating piracy

by Don Groves

It is time for Google and other search engines to take action to stop people from accessing illegal film and TV content via the back door, according to Graham Burke.

The chairman of Creative Content Australia (CCA), Burke hailed the effectiveness of the site-blocking legislation but said more needs to be done to prevent people from watching infringing content via proxy sites.

This practice amounts to large-scale theft which threatens Australian jobs and Australian stories, he said. Burke was speaking after the release of a CCA-commissioned survey which showed that while the overall piracy levels have not risen from last year, after reaching a blocked site, 77% of adults and 74% of teens search for an alternative infringing site for the same content.

"Site blocking works and we have shut the front door of the department store by removing the big sign 'Free Stolen Goods'", he said.

"But as the processes to remove 'mirror' sites (same car, different number plates) are slow, search engines are blatantly thumbing their noses at Australian law and courts by leading people to the back door."

"All you have to do is Google 'PIR' and Google auto complete comes up with 'Pirate Bay proxies'. Google can address this as they have done in other areas and if they don't they are demonstrating only an interest in luring traffic to their advertising model business. It is time for the tech giant to deliver on their public position of 'Google is up for working with content owners to fight piracy.'

"It would be tragic if an overseas monopoly that doesn't pay tax in our country cost Australians their jobs by its facilitation of large-scale theft."

The ninth annual survey commissioned by the anti-piracy organisation CCA revealed 21% of adults aged 18-64 admit to some form of piracy, the same as 2016 and an improvement on 2015's 25%.

CCA Executive Director Lori Flekser attributed the static result to a spike in subscriptions to streaming services such as Netflix and Stan, the presence of the site blocks and the prevalence of malware.

Addressing the Screen Forever conference in Melbourne today, Flekser said the research is encouraging in that it shows the majority of would-be pirates have experienced a blocked site when searching for pirated content.

The research was conducted by Sycamore in conjunction with OmniPoll from September 14-19 so it did not measure the response to the Federal Court orders to block a further 59 sites, which came into effect in mid-September.

However the Australian Incopro study in May, based on the five sites blocked in December-February, showed combined usage of those sites and associated proxies decreased by 59.6% since blocking began in September 2016. That finding is consistent with usage patterns in other countries.

The CCA research showed that search engines such as Google are most mentioned by adults as the means to find illegal content online and can facilitate new means to reach alternate infringing sites and proxies when users encounter blocked sites.

The study also found that after reaching a blocked site, whilst half of Australians are turning to a legal source to access the same content, 77% of adults and 74% of teens search for an alternative infringing site for the same content.

Creative Content Australia's recent 'Price of Piracy' consumer campaign drew attention to the link between malware and piracy. Numerous international studies have confirmed that infringing video streaming has become the number one method to propagate malware on the Internet.

The new research from CCA confirms that amongst persistent pirates, 47% of teens and 59% of adults have contracted a virus or malware by clicking on an ad or pop-up, or from streaming or downloading movies or TV from a pirate site.

Flekser also told Screen Forever delegates that research had investigated the use of set top boxes and infringing apps for the first time and found they are 'piracy's new frontier.'

These apps permit 'add-ons' to seek out unlicensed content and deliver pirated movies and TV shows with ease.

Last month Village Roadshow and a group of movie studios sought a Federal Court injunction to compel Internet service providers to block the app HDSubs+, which delivers streaming video to set-top boxes.

Of the 31% of Australians aged 12-64 who watch movies or TV shows through a set top box, CCA research shows one in four teens uses infringing content apps to access pirated content. Among adults, that figure is one in five.

Another encouraging trend: The latest study recorded the highest number ever of Australians who agree piracy is stealing/theft (74% of adults and teens) with the majority (68% of teens and 65% of adults) acknowledging that piracy damages the livelihoods and jobs of those working in the film and television industries.

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