Film piracy among 12- to 17-year-olds in Australia has almost doubled in the past year, with movie bosses saying illegal downloads are threatening the future of film.
However, a new plan may save the struggling industry, with movie piracy having star billing at the Australian International Movie Convention on Queensland’s Gold Coast.
Village Roadshow executive Graham Burke said Australians had taken to piracy at a far greater per capita rate than “virtually anywhere else in the world – way ahead of the USA”.
“If we cannot solve the piracy problem there will be no Australian films – zero,” he said.
“Seventy-three per cent of people acknowledge that piracy is theft.
“There has been some decline in piracy amongst Australian adults in the last year and part of this is due to new streaming services … which demonstrates that when product is legally available, this is a critical factor.
“However, before we get too comfortable by this decline in total piracy, the emphasis on movies is worse and illegal online activity of 12- to 17-year-old Australians has almost doubled since last year – with a whopping 31 per cent pirating movies.”
Mad Max: Fury Road has been illegally downloaded 3.5 million times in Australia.
The producer of 2011 film Red Dog, Nelson Woss, said piracy was a plague.
“Even if you make a great movie that has emotional resonance with an audience, people steal it and they don’t go to the cinema,” he said.
Advertising on pirate websites ‘high-risk’
Mr Burke warned there were two other aspects to piracy that were often little known.
“Firstly, we are sending our kids to very dangerous online neighbourhoods – the pirates are not good guys,” he said.
“These aren’t roguish, basement-dwelling computer geeks – these are the same type of people that sell heroin.
“It’s been proven, they often have connections to organised, international crime syndicates.”
He said pirates were also only about the dollars and they made “tens of millions blitzing our kids with [high-risk] advertising”.
This advertising included hard core pornography, online gambling, steroids or so-called party drugs, weight loss and banking scams.
Five-step solution to stop piracy
Mr Burke said Village Roadshow had developed a “five-step solution”, which included legislation to block illegal sites, forging a better relationship with Google, making more content legally available, pursuing legal action against serial offenders, and fostering community support.
He said one of the steps proposed was a different approach to legal penalties.
“We are planning to pursue our legal rights to protect our copyright by suing repeat infringers – not for a king’s ransom but akin to the penalty for parking a car in a loading zone,” he said.
“If the price of an act of thievery is set at say $300, we believe most people will think twice.”
Winning strong community support is key
However, Mr Burke said it was more important to change people’s attitudes to piracy and its final step was winning over strong community support against movie piracy.
“If we cannot solve the piracy problem there will be no Australian films – zero.”
Village Roadshow executive Graham Burke
“In our research we repeatedly come across people who have not been told [piracy is wrong and is theft], and assume from continued practice, that it is socially and legally acceptable, and that it does no harm or that their individual activity won’t make any difference.
“People wouldn’t go into a 7-Eleven and swipe a Mars bar. People are fundamentally honest and fundamentally decent.”
He said any revenue from the proposed legal program will be devoted to positive education on piracy.