People who illegally stream or download content aren’t just hurting copyright holders: they’re also putting themselves at risk of fraud, viruses or exposing their personal details.

That’s the key message of Creative Content Australia’s (CCA) new consumer campaign, launched today, ‘Piracy. You’re Exposed‘. The industry body, whose focus is on copyright and the impact of piracy, has crafted a 30 second ad-spot for cinemas and TV, which highlights how often pirate websites are linked to malware that can steal personal information, like financial data and passwords, and facilitate identity theft.

The campaign is based on 2019 CCA research, which surveyed 1229 adults and 659 teens aged 12-17, and found that 62 per cent of adults and 75 per cent of persistent teen pirates experienced cyber breaches after accessing pirated content.

Many Australian consumers who reported pirating content experienced negative consequences related to viruses or data exposure. (Source: Creative Content Australia)

Almost 30 per cent of adult pirates reported issues with viruses or malware when accessing pirated content, and a similar proportion experienced pop-ups containing malware. The more frequently someone reported pirating content, the more likely they were to experience these issues.

CCA executive director Lori Flekser says the decision to run the campaign was in part to combat a false sense of bravado among those who pirate, who often believe they are tech savvy enough to avoid cyber security issues.

“But we know that’s not true,” she tells IF. “The more you pirate, the more likely you are to attract some form of cyber threat or cyber issues. That could be pop-ups with malware, it could an actual virus on your computer, it could be ransomware installed on your device, losing or exposing personal details or being a victim of fraud or being hacked. So the consequences are quite severe.”

Further, Flekser says piracy is increasingly becoming associated with large global criminal organisations, who often also linked to more dangerous activities such as drugs and human trafficking.

“If you visit pirate websites, even the law can’t protect you,” said CCA chairman Graham Burke.

“You are going to a criminally dangerous neighbourhood. Pirate sites are big businesses and exist solely to make money by robbing you, or worse. This is an area where your cyber security is in danger and malware, blackmail and identity theft is common place.”

Concern about cyber security was the main reason both adults and teens reported reducing their piracy, with 24 per cent of adult and 23 per cent of teen pirates are concerned about exposing personal information.

With the explosion of content services available, it is easy to assume piracy rates would have dropped. And while Flekser says there has been a gradual decline in casual piracy since the introduction of SVOD services like Stan and Netflix in 2015, CCA’s research shows that one in five adult Australians still admitted to pirating content last year. That’s more than in 2018 and in line with 2016 and 2017 data. And CCA has found there has been no change in the number of ‘persistent pirates’ (who pirate weekly or more) year on year.

Perhaps counter-intuitively, CCA’s research found that it was actually people who were subscribed to more SVOD services that were more likely to pirate content. Fifty per cent of adults who subscribed to three or more SVODs pirated content, compared to just 11 per cent of those who did not have any SVOD subscriptions.

The reason for this? Fragmentation. More than half of those who pirated reported that it was because the content they were after was not available through their subscriptions.

“A lot of casual pirates are subscribers to multiple services, but when a particular title is not on the services that they subscribe to, they feel entitled to pirate it,” Flekser says.