Copyright Police Target Dodgy Set-Top Boxes As Aussie Pirates Turn To Streaming

Image: HBO / Game of Thrones

As Australians lose their taste for BitTorrent, content owners are opening up a new front in the war on copyright infringement.

It was always going to be difficult to measure the effect of Australia's piracy crackdown when it's child's play to bypass the blocks on BitTorrent search engines like The Pirate Bay. Meanwhile there are tricks for cloaking BitTorrent traffic, so the copyright police can't claim they're winning the war simply because they're catching fewer pirates in the act.

By the numbers

Rather than relying on internet traffic reports, Creative Content Australia is going straight to the source by asking Aussies about their piracy habits. We're not shy about it, with 21 per cent of respondents to the 'Australian Piracy Behaviours and Attitudes' survey admitting to sourcing content via less than legal channels.

Piracy figures among Australian adults have remained steady over the last 12 months, despite the crackdown, while the number of teen pirates has dropped by about 20 per cent.

While that's a significant drop, it's only a drop among "casual" teen pirates and teens who consider themselves "persistent" pirates are refusing to budge. All up about a third of Australia's pirates classify themselves as "persistent".

Change the channel

Unfortunately the BitTorrent crackdown hasn't been as effective as copyright holders might have hoped. Rather than turning over a new leaf, Aussies are simply turning to other forms of piracy.

Dive into the figures and you see that streaming piracy is now twice as prevalent as downloading. Rather than going through the hassles of installing a BitTorrent client, finding reliable torrents and then masking their downloads, today's pirates are finding it easier to visit pirate streaming sites like SolarMovie.

Streaming presents less of a learning curve for new pirates, plus there's less chance of getting dragged through the courts, but visiting these sites puts you at greater risk of malware infection. Streaming might not feel as wrong as downloading, but you're still infringing copyright.

Think outside the box

Creative Content Australia's piracy figures contain a new column this year: streaming or downloading via set-top box.

For a long time there's been a cottage industry in selling piracy-friendly set-top boxes or HDMI dongles that are pre-configured to tap into vast libraries of pirated movies and TV shows. Often they'll run the popular Kodi media player – which in itself isn't against the law – but they also feature piracy-friendly plugins.

These kind of services have long been popular with Australians chasing foreign language content from overseas, but now they're finding a mainstream audience. Interest in these devices is naturally growing as Aussie pirates favour streaming and look for an easy way to watch content on the big screen in the lounge room.

It's easy enough to build a box like this yourself, with Kodi running on a wide range of platforms, but of course there's always a market for selling plug 'n' play devices for those who want something that just works. It's the 21st century equivalent of the pirate pay TV boxes that let you tap into all the subscription cable and satellite pay TV channels.

Along with chasing the distributors of these streaming set-top boxes, pirate hunters are looking to block their online marketplaces and payment portals. There's also a push to expand Australia's block on pirate-friendly websites to include the IP addresses that these boxes rely on to access pirate content.

The Alliance For Creativity and Entertainment and the Coalition Against Piracy recently teamed up to shut down an illicit IPTV operation in Australia, selling boxes bundled with a 12-month subscription to pirated movies, TV shows and sports. Meanwhile UK regulators are cracking down on so-called "fully loaded" set-top boxes.

Have you turned your back on piracy, or simply switched from downloading to streaming? What would it take for you to go legit?

WATCH MORE: Entertainment News


    Popcorn Time on an Apple TV 4th Gen, sorted.

    $26 to watch a movie at the local Event Cinema complex is a little bit rich, don’t you think?

      Although I still do go to the cinema. Before anyone decides to jump on that high horse.

        I go to the movies regularly here in Adelaide, $10 movie tickets all the time, most of the cinemas here are doing it now. Only exception is the special movie screens.

      I agree $26 is overpriced, but then, I have a Grand card (which the cost is negligable) for Grand Cinemas, and then movies cost just $14

    visiting these sites puts you at greater risk of malware infection


    So basically, the idiots have learned nothing from this piracy issue. Why do people pirate shows? because it's either too expensive, or the local content of providers is bereft of anything worth watching after the first month. FIX those problems, then see how piracy figures plummet in this country.

      As the majority of people don't pirate (apparently it's at 29%) it's not to expensive.

        Given the lack of content, I would beg to differ.

      Based on their numbers piracy has plummeted so in their mind they have won! These morons simply don't get it and never will either...

    Film and Television need a "One Stop Shop" like iTunes to put the kibosh on it really. I mean, I used to torrent my music before iTunes, but I haven't illegally downloaded a single song since I got it 8 years ago (or more). That must mean something. I'm happy to pay for it when I can go to ONE place and just buy it.

    If all the streamers could be hooked up to a hub that we purchase for a monthly fee, then most of the proceeds from whatever we buy from whatever streaming service can be funneled back to them and we get the convenience of hooking up to one unit to be able to acquire everything......that'd be rad.

    Till then......Kodi pretty much is that. They need to replace that.

    Last edited 04/12/17 10:46 am

      Kodi is not that anymore than chrome is. Don't sully the name of a great open source project by equating it to piracy like Xerox is to photocopying

    I still cant believe a 2 year old movie costs $7 to rent digitally on iTunes. Granted there are 99c and $4 sales on some movies but the normal price is far from what I remember the old Blockbuster prices to be.

      New release over night movies were $7. Once they were in recent releases they went down to 3 for $10 for 3 days iirc, and you could get 10 weeklies for $10.

    Can’t really see piracy abating in Au when editors of online publications like Kotaku / Gizmodo etc advocate for GoT piracy.

      Its hilarious that you think Gizmodo Australia has the reach and influence to affect national behavior.

        I didn’t say they did. “Publications like...”

        But really, you think that the media at large has no influence on society? Wow!

          But really, you think that the media at large has no influence on society? Wow!

          But really, a strawman argument in 2017? Wow!

          The media? Sure.
          A niche website that barely gets a dozen comments on stories? No.

            Can’t read either! “Publications like...” Never said Giz was so influential as to change society (lol). There’s literally hundreds of thousands of publications like Giz yeah? And if you don’t think hundreds of thousands of publications like Giz presenting similar messages have no impact on their audience’s perception then triple wow!

            Also, might want to brush up on your logic as your definition of straw man is seriously flawed if you think saying “media is influential” in response to someone saying “media isn’t influential” is a straw man. By your definition, anyone who disagrees with someone is making a straw man argument lol

              in response to someone saying “media isn’t influential”

              Except I didn't say that, at all. I said this specific publication which you called out isn't influential. But rather than argue against what I actually said, you made your own ridiculous statement and then argued against that instead.

              Which is the textbook definition of a strawman argument, champ.

              But keep trying. You'll get there eventually.

                Still missing the point though: “Publications like...”

                You know? Publications like the thousands of smaller publications similar to Gizmodo. Whether it’s a tech site or entertainment sites, news sites etc. Editorial guidelines and other aspects that dictate what major publications can and can’t say are less applicable on sites like Gizmodo. I think that’s great; but there are downsides too.

                And the straw man argument is your retort that Gizmodo, on its own, is not influential. You’re equating publications like Gizmodo to mean Gizmodo and only Gizmodo; as if I’m suggesting that only this publication is responsible for all piracy in Australia because of something they wrote.

                I wasn’t even suggesting they are responsible, just that some of the views expressed in some publications don’t help impress the value of intellectual property upon their audiences.

                You’re refuting an argument that I didn’t make. That’s known as the straw man fallacy. That’s why I pitched it back to you after I corrected your misrepresentation of my statement.

                Like I said friend; you need to brush up on your logic lest you continue making fallacious arguments in the future.

    The recent National Copyrighted Content Download Survey (NCCDS) found that only 0.1% of respondents admitted ever downloading copyrighted material with the remaining 99.9% claiming that they do not download or even view copyrighted material that wasn't properly/legally obtained.

    Suing people does nothing. iTunes and later Pandora/Spotify cut down music downloading massively. Steam cut down on game piracy massively.

    Give a convenient service to people, and they will pay. Joe Sixpack really couldn't care less about poor little Joe Billionaire in charge of Paramount/Sony etc losing out on his extra $x. But Joe Sixpack certainly cares about something making his entertainment more convenient.

    If they want to convert the masses to paying users, they should stop wasting their time crying morality (the average joe doesn't care), and suing users (people don't think it'll happen to THEM), and just give ppl what they want.

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