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Piracy by the numbers: How does it add up? (pictures)

After duking it out in the media for months, ISPs, rights holders, and lobby groups have met face-to-face to solve Australia's piracy problem. But what are the real-world stats behind the arguments and just how big is the problem?

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claire-reilly2

Claire Reilly

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1 of 6 Screenshot by Claire Reilly/CNET

The international experience on piracy

As part of its presentation at the Online Copyright Infringement Forum, the Attorney-General's Department and Department of Communications released statistics on the piracy problem both in Australia and overseas.

The panel examined measures introduced overseas, and compared Australia's torrenting rates to those in the United States, where pirating content has been on the decline for some years.

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2 of 6 Screenshot by Claire Reilly/CNET

The peer-to-peer problem

While Netflix hasn't launched in an official capacity in Australia, more than a quarter of media-savvy consumers are getting around the geoblock and using the service through a VPN.

However, a legitimate conversation about VPN usage in Australia was noticeably absent from the forum -- despite Choice advocating VPNs as a legitimate means to access content, and iiNet saying Netflix allows consumers to "do the right thing" by paying for contenting rather than torrenting.

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3 of 6 Screenshot by Claire Reilly/CNET

Big delays and high costs

The concept of timely access to competitively-priced content was a major issue at the forum. When asked by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull how rights holders could justify delaying access to content, the head of Village Road Graham Burke said the company had learnt its lesson from the past.

"We made one hell of a mistake with Lego movie...we held it for a holiday period and it was a disaster," he said. "Our policy going forward is to go day and date with US releases."

However Choice CEO Alan Kirkland said Australia still had a problem around price and availability.

"We've paid a lot more for things for many years and now with the internet that's a lot more obvious," he said.

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4 of 6 Screenshot by Claire Reilly/CNET

The role of ISPs

The concept of a graduated response or 'three strikes' approach to piracy was also floated by rights holders. However, ISPs and lobby groups questioned just who would pay for a scheme, and whether or not the scheme would have judicial oversight.

Telstra executive director Jane Van Beelen said the telco supported the "idea" of notice schemes, but said it should apply to "all ISPs".

However, academic Rebecca Giblin pointed to the failure of France's three-strikes policy, saying only 12 percent of infringers received a first notice, let alone further follow up action.

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5 of 6 Screenshot by Claire Reilly/CNET

Who pays for a piracy scheme?

The overseas example was also used to raise questions about who should pay for an anti-piracy scheme. Foxtel CEO Richard Freudenstein broke the costs down into three 'buckets': the cost of finding piracy websites, the cost of finding so-called 'pirates' and the cost of sending infringement notices.

While ISPs said they should not have to pay to recover lost revenues that boost the rights holders' bottom line, Freudenstein said that, unless ISPs were paying for the scheme, they could become "recalcitrant" and inefficient at policing it.

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6 of 6 Screenshot by Claire Reilly/CNET

The numbers behind site blocking

Rights holders and ISPs argued over the efficacy of site blocking, with ISPs saying it is ultimately a futile endeavour.

"We could end up playing whack-a-mole if we do this," said iiNet CEO David Buckingham. "Pirate Bay hid themselves for many many months. Be aware that technology finds a way around those things."

Choice CEO Alan Kirkland agreed: "Web developers, people who run websites, move much faster than the courts."

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