by Don Groves
The fight against online piracy in Australia is making significant headway thanks to the court-ordered blocking of 59 illegal sites, according to new research.
Traffic to blocked sites has been slashed by 53% while the overall level of piracy has fallen by 25% year-on-year.
Creative Content Australia (CCA) chairman Graham Burke AO welcomes the findings but he urged Google and other search engines to join the fight by taking down infringing sites.
"The reduction in piracy is exciting news but that 53% could be 90%," Burke said. "The government has shut the front door but Google is leading people to the back door, showing no respect for Australian law or courts, let alone any regard for the Australian economy and cultural way of life."
"Meanwhile the criminals running pirate sites are earning giant commissions scamming Australian citizens."
INCOPRO's Australian Site-Blocking Efficacy Report was released today, the day before CCA's latest consumer campaign -'Say No to Piracy' - launches in cinemas, on Foxtel, free-to-air networks and online across Australia.
Celebrating creativity and innovation in the screen industries as well as underlining the vast array of behind-the-scenes professionals involved in making content, the 30-second spots include clips from Lion, Top of the Lake, Hacksaw Ridge, Red Dog and Paper Planes.
The campaign builds on CCA research that showed 74% of Australians believe piracy is stealing or theft.
Compiled after the Australian Federal Court ordered the blocking of 59 pirate sites, the Incopro report echoes the findings of a UK study by Carnegie-Mellon University which revealed that overall piracy was significantly reduced only when a substantial number of sites were blocked simultaneously.
Among the key points from the Australian study is that site blocking resulted in a 53.4% reduction in visits to the blocked sites last November, compared with the time before the regime began in December 2016. Moreover, usage of the top 250 unauthorised sites in Australia decreased by 25.4% in that period.
CCA executive director Lori Flekser said the INCOPRO research clearly shows the assertions made by vocal opponents of site-blocking - who claimed it was ineffectual - were unfounded and wrong.
"The reduction in piracy that this research confirms offers proof to all the naysayers who decried site-blocking that not only is it working well, but it hasn't broken the internet," she said.
'Say No to Piracy' was written and directed by emerging filmmaker Curtis Hill, who said: "It was film school that opened my eyes to how many skilled people it takes to make screen content."
"I want to have a career making feature films and TV drama but piracy is having a major impact on my ability to do that. It reduces investment in the creative industry which leads to fewer projects. That's less opportunities for people like me and less jobs for thousands of crew and cast."
The new campaign has a different message to CCA's 2017 'Price of Piracy' initiative, which featured Bryan Brown.
"'Price of Piracy' was a great success in alerting consumers that pirate sites are criminal neighbourhoods posing real risks," Flekser said. 'Say No to Piracy' celebrates Australian film and television and is a powerful reminder that we have some of the best screen professionals in the world. Online piracy jeopardises not only local jobs and livelihoods but also the future of great Australian stories that promote our culture and way of life."
Burke added: "This campaign celebrates the joy of Australian films, which follow on from the long tradition of Gallipoli, Crocodile Dundee, Babe and Muriel's Wedding. There will be no future for Australian films if piracy is not contained."