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​'Piracy is everyone's responsibility': Foxtel and EzyFlix respond to iiNet salvo

Two of Australia's major content providers have defended their delivery models following claims from iiNet that Australians pirate content because there are few viable alternatives.

Screenshot by Nic Healey/CNET

As the online piracy debate heats up in Australia, iiNet has lambasted the content industry for being "uncompetitive" and failing to understand why Australians are pirating TV shows and movies. But two leading content companies have responded, saying the whole industry should be working to tackle piracy in unison.

iiNet fired the first salvo in the debate, with chief regulatory officer Steve Dalby saying "copyright holders have shown us that they're not interested in new models for Australians" and that these rights holders were too focused on "how customers are pirating content" rather than addressing the causes of piracy.

The ISP looked outwards to Hollywood and Australia's content delivery services, but according to Foxtel, "the responsibility rests with everyone" when it comes to stopping illegal downloading in Australia.

The pay TV behemoth

"First and foremost, piracy is theft," a Foxtel spokesperson told CNET.

"Content owners should make content available quickly and conveniently, Government should put in place a regulatory system that encourages legitimate use and discourages illegitimate use of content and, ISPs should assist by mitigating, to the extent they can, use of their networks for unauthorised purposes.

"All parties have an obligation to ensure that consumers are educated about the implications of unauthorised use of content and how to get access to legitimate sources of content."

For Game of Thrones fans, Foxtel provides that legitimate avenue for access. However, Dalby said the pay TV provider's exclusive rights for the show had caused "outrage" amongst consumers who "begrudge being extorted" on price.

But Foxtel defended its model, addressing these comments with a focus on its quick delivery of content.

"Foxtel goes to great lengths through our 'Express from the US' effort to bring that content to subscribers as quickly as possible and we work closely with content owners to get the most provocative, popular and high quality programming available," the spokesperson said.

"For Game of Thrones season 4 we also offered special pricing for Foxtel Play help make it more accessible for everyone. The move has been very popular."

The online streaming newcomer

While it might not yet be a household name like Foxtel, EzyFlix said its content streaming service was starting to lure consumers away from piracy with a competitive offering, but there was still a way to go -- in part, because of the limitations put in place by content providers.

"An increase in legitimate services like, better availability of content from studios and an overall improved experience won't stop piracy, but it will suppress it to a degree," said EzyFlix CEO Craig White.

"Most content providers are sincerely striving to increase access to content through legitimate services. That said, between the content's rights acquisition costs and related expenses, there are significant financial barriers to entry that inhibit a broader base of online providers offering legitimate services at this point in time."

White added that the pricing structures put in place by content providers created a "digital pricing discrepancy" between Australian and overseas markets and was slowing "would-be providers" from establishing streaming services.

But despite these drawbacks, White pointed out that the other 'legitimate' offerings in Australia also had their weak points.

"While Pay TV and other subscription services appeal to sports lovers and more traditional households, millennials are as likely to value a set top box in the future as they do a VHS or cassette tape today," said White.

"Subscription Video-on-Demand service models (think Netflix) are an 'all you can eat' approach. What this doesn't offer (including in the USA), is the latest release movies. Where new release titles are available, they come at an added cost.

"SVoD services are the equivalent of traditional video store without a new release section. There would be walls and walls of old movies gathering dust and nothing new to watch. For less than $8 a month, that is decent value offer, but consumers will still look to alternatives to watch latest release movies."

But while White went further than Foxtel in highlighting the limitations of Australia's current offerings for content-hungry consumers, his words on tackling piracy reiterated those from the pay TV provider.

"ISPs should shoulder their share of responsibility, which should include limiting the means by which content can be pirated," he said. "The government and studios also have a lot of work to do in order to negate the key causes of piracy, and the promotion of legitimate services.

"It is an industry issue as a whole, and all key stakeholders have to shoulder their share of responsibility."