Australians Aren’t Afraid Of The Copyright Police, Game Of Thrones Piracy Boom Shows

Australians Aren’t Afraid Of The Copyright Police, Game Of Thrones Piracy Boom Shows

Local pirates clearly aren’t trying too hard to cover their tracks, with a hefty slice of Game of Thrones season premiere downloads traced back to Australia.

Once again Game of Thrones has smashed records in Australia, with this week’s Season 6 premiere attracting 727,000 viewers on Foxtel to become the most-watched show in Australian subscription television history. That’s a 30 per cent jump on last year, before you even count Foxtel Play streaming viewers, but not everyone wanting to learn the fate of Jon Snow decided to do the right thing.

Australia’s war on piracy has achieved very little judging by Game of Thrones BitTorrent stats. Photo: HBO / Foxtel

Plenty of locals also turned to the BitTorrent channel, with Australia accounting for 12.5 per cent of all Game of Thrones BitTorrent traffic in the first 12 hours, according to piracy news site TorrentFreak. The numbers are skewed due to time zone differences, but they support claims that per capita we’re some of the world’s most prolific pirates.

Of course BitTorrent is only the tip of the piracy iceberg, as illustrated by the fact that Australia’s copyright police are calling for the blocking of piracy streaming site SolarMovie. There are plenty of other ways to watch Game of Thrones without paying, from alternative file sharing platforms to streaming plugins for media player software like Kodi, but it seems plenty of pirates have stuck with BitTorrent.

It’s true that the early Game of Thrones BitTorrent piracy numbers are slightly down on last season, but what’s really surprising is that so many downloads were traced back to Australia despite the country’s high-profile piracy crackdown.

Of course the so-called crackdown achieved very little; the Dallas Buyers Club case was thrown out, the three-strikes warning scheme is in tatters and efforts to block piracy websites are yet to come into effect. But you’d still think that pirates who haven’t been scared straight would step up their security precautions such as masking their activities behind a VPN or SOCKS5 proxy – making them appear to be in a different country so they wouldn’t contribute to Australia’s piracy statistics.

After everything that’s happened in the last few years you’d expect Australia’s piracy rates to plunge, at least at face value, with a corresponding spike in downloads from the Netherlands, Switzerland and Spain. Perhaps Aussie pirates are all hiding behind Australian VPN servers, but it seems that plenty of local BitTorrent users either don’t read the news or have no faith in the authorities’ ability to chase them down.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking the failed Dallas Buyers Club case gives Aussie pirates a Get out of Jail Free card. Justice Perram was ready to hand over the details of people allegedly caught downloading the movie, the case only fell over because the judge didn’t trust the movie’s backers not to extort people with speculative invoicing. Another case could succeed if the copyright owners agree to play by the judge’s rules.

All the time, money and political will poured into the piracy crackdown has clearly achieved very little when Australian pirates don’t even feel the need to hide in the shadows. A rethink of the way we approach piracy is in order but don’t hold your breath – it’s easier for the government and powerful copyright lobby to stay the course than actually address the underlying reasons why Australians feel ripped off.

How did you watch Game of Thrones this week? What would it take to win more people away from piracy?

This article originally appeared in Digital Life, The Sydney Morning Herald’s home for everything technology. Follow Digital Life on Facebook and Twitter.