Most people who illegally download movies, music and TV shows would pay for them if there was a cheap and legal service as convenient as file-sharing tools like BitTorrent.
That's the finding of the most comprehensive look yet at people who illegally download TV shows, movies and music in Australia, conducted by news.com.au and market research firm CoreData.
The survey canvassed the attitudes of more than 7,000 people who admitted to streaming or downloading media from illegitimate sources in the past 12 months. It found accessibility was as much or more of a motivator than money for those who illegally download media using services like BitTorrent.
More respondents said they turned to illegal downloads because they were convenient than because they were free, when it came to all three types of media covered by the survey -- TV shows, movies and music. And more than two-thirds said they would pay for downloads from a legitimate service that was just as convenient if it existed.
The hypothetical legitimate service was described as giving users access to TV shows, movies and music they wanted, when they wanted them, without ads or copy protection.
The survey also found:
* TV shows are illegally downloaded more regularly, and by more people, than movies or music.
* GEN Y is prepared to pay more for legal downloads of TV shows and movies than any other age group, while people between 31 and 50 are more likely to pay top dollar for music.
* The most popular prices for legal downloads chosen by respondents were $1 per TV show, $2 per movie and $0.50 per music track.
Freedom of use
David Crafti, president of the Pirate Party Australia political group, said the survey results showed illegal downloaders were in fact frustrated consumers.
"People aren't just looking for a free ride. They're living in the modern world and expecting business models to keep up with them," he said.
Mr Crafti said restrictive copy protection measures that "crippled" many legal download stores — such as locking movie or music files so they can only be played on specific devices — turned users off buying media through legitimate channels.
"I think what it comes down to is freedom," he said.
"They just want to know that they've got the data, they can watch it whenever they want, on whatever device they want, they can watch it three months later, or a year later, and not have any time limitations."
If there was a legitimate online service that gave people the same freedoms offered by pirated media at a cheap price, Mr Crafti said many downloaders would switch to it.
"They'd be happy to be signed up to it, to be able to not have to search BitTorrent and have to figure out which bad quality version of it to get," he said.
"While some people would still not pay for it, there'd be enough people who would pay for it to create and maintain a very sustainable media industry."