Youth increasingly apathetic towards internet piracy

"It might be illegal, but I don't think a lot people view that as wrong; we don’t care," said 18-year-old speaker

Australian youth are becoming increasingly apathetic about internet piracy, a discussion forum held by the Australian Communications and Media Authority has revealed.

At the ACMA Young Citizens in a Changing Media World forum earlier this week, one of the young speakers said young people “don’t care” about internet piracy because the moral codes of their generation differ from those of generations before them.

“I think for young people, our morals and our guidelines are very different to perhaps what our parents’ generation, our grandparents’ generations think is right or wrong,” said 18-year-old Ella.

“[Internet piracy] might be illegal, but I don't think that a lot people view that as wrong; we don’t care.

“I'm sorry if your ‘bajillion-dollar’ production company is out for my $2, but I'd rather save that for later.”

Network Ten’s head of children’s television and documentary unit, Cherrie Bottger, who was one of the adult speakers at the forum, attributed this indifference towards copyright piracy and infringement among young people to a lack of education on the issue.

“I don't think kids understand that if they're dancing to a Michael Jackson song that a third party has to agree to that music being there,” she said.

“And I really don't think young people understand that certain issues are illegal, which was touched on before, and it does give them notoriety.”

A 15-year-old speaker, Julia, agreed with Cherrie that education on internet piracy has been limited and insufficient.

“We don't get told what is illegal and what isn't,” she said.

“The line is very hazy with what is illegal and with what isn't illegal because it's such a broad thing.

“There's not a lot of focus on us as young people getting told what is right and what is wrong because it's always changing.”

However, Ella knocked back claims that young people were uneducated on the subject and instead, reiterated: “I think a lot of young people do understand that the song or movie they clicked or whatever it was does belong to someone else… The thing is, young people don't care.”

Queensland University of Technology law lecturer and former chair of Electronic Frontiers Australia, Dr Nicolas Suzor, also discredited a lack of education to be the primary reason for a growing apathy towards internet piracy among young people.

Instead, he blamed the media industry’s failure to keep pace with the change of technology and demand of consumers for its vulnerability to — and encouragement of — internet piracy.

“[There] is a growing disconnect between the legitimate business model that is available, and the needs and desires of the current generation of media consumers,” Suzor said.

Dr Suzor pointed out the “ease of access” to online content has influenced the demand for “cheap, fast and high quality access to digital media.”

“Until we see more innovative models [of distribution] emerge, people will continually be pushed towards illegitimate means of accessing content,” he said.

Instead of enforcing archaic business models onto consumers, Suzor suggested that businesses should embrace online methods of media distribution, such as iTunes and Netflix.

“iTunes has been hugely successful in changing the way that people engage with media, particularly with music online, by providing people with a really easy and fast legitimate method to access their music,” he said.

“People don’t necessarily want to go to a video store to hire out a DVD… Services like Netflix allow people to pay a monthly subscription and be able to stream any movies they would like to their computers or to their television at any time. That makes a huge difference to consumer demand.

“I think that it’s certainly true when people are given a fairly easy way to access media, they choose to pay a small and reasonable fee for easy access rather than take the risk of downloading.”

In addition to providing more simple and legitimate channels of media distribution, Suzor said levels of apathy will decrease by creating a direct connection between consumers, artists and production studios by involving consumers in the development of projects.

However, Martin Cocker, NetSafe New Zealand’s executive director, warned the flippant attitude of young people could harm their future by being classified as a criminal if caught for piracy.

“The key things for me are those that have a long-term detrimental effect, things that we should be worried about, such as young people producing content that makes them a criminal is a serious concern,” he said.

“Australia and New Zealand are reasonable about what they prosecute, but that's not the case in every country.

“First and foremost, you have to know the law, absolutely, take your own risks… But don't cross the line, don't become a criminal, don't do things that will stop you from having the future you want.”

The comments follow the creation of a Notice Scheme to educate Australians about illegal downloading, a joint effort between the Communications Alliance with Telstra Bigpond, iiNet, Optus, iPrimus and Internode.

The scheme will target internet users who infringe copyrights under the Copyright Act 1968, such as peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing and pirated downloads, with internet service providers (ISPs) required to send education and warning notices to customers whose internet accounts may have been used for file sharing.

Exetel's chief executive, John Linton, has labelled the initiative as a “waste of time”.

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