by Colin Jowell

Australia is now a world famous record breaker for something we should probably be less than proud of - Piracy. As Game Of Thrones episodes were released, we have been routinely top of the list.

There has been a lot of commentary on the structural reasons as to why - most pointing to the bundling structures of Foxtel that are at odds with the “want it now, have it now” digital world. It’s a complicated debate - one that centres around business economics and rights. But underlying it is something deeper - our notion of what is fair and right, and why we seem to have less compunction in what, no matter how you define it, is stealing.

Many point to the music industry transformation as an answer - from the wide accessibility of iTunes, to the new streaming services such as Spotify and Pandora. But those models haven’t really cracked it yet either. Not only have several high profile artists come out slamming these platforms because of royalties, but also the production vs marketing ratio of the two industries is anything but comparable. It costs a lot less to make a song, and therefore also a lot less to buy one - and the size of the theft has to play a material part in the decision to steal. Hannah Marshall, Senior Associate at Marque Lawyers, suggested one of the more creative solutions using laws already in place. She recommended putting content like Game of Thrones on the anti-siphoning list. That list is at the moment reserved for sports, though, she points out, there is no reason this has to be limited.

In the mean time though, we have as a nation decided that it is OK to steal. It’s not a generic allowance, otherwise the crime rates on the streets of our relatively peaceful nation would follow suit. It’s OK, however, to steal from companies we regard as rich, and undeserving of our custom.

To that extent, rampant piracy is not a money issue, or even a structural issue. It’s a brand issue - if there was a brand in the entertainment space that had a fantastic reputation for looking after its customers, delivering a great service, providing fair value, we’d gladly give them our money. Let’s face it: the current piracy user experience should not be anywhere near as good as a company actually remunerated for the provision of the service. And yet our Relationship Mapping study revealed that there was no paid-for brand in this category that was a true advocacy brand – in other words none had both a high emotional engagement (likelihood to recommend) and entrenched rational engagement (measured by tenure and frequency).  What a massive opportunity.

The fact that our willingness to pirate is at odds with our otherwise law abiding nature, means that culturally we are becoming less moral in a digital future, or that these are two dissonant behaviours we ‘d prefer to align. As a society, we should hope for the latter, and watching how businesses attempt to meet this now glaringly unmet need should make for very interesting viewing indeed.

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