Say naarrrrrr to online piracy

PERHAPS we should have a peg-legged, bandanna- and eyepatch-wearing bloke with a parrot perched on his shoulder bellowing, “AARRRRRRRRRRRGH!” for our national symbol instead of Skippy.

For we are a nation of pirates, albeit of the online variety. And our favourite show with which to abscond, Game of Thrones, is about to begin.

Worldwide, the Season 4 finale of GoT last June was downloaded illegally 1.5 million times in the 12 hours after it went to air, according to file-sharing-site monitor TorrentFreak. Australia was the only country to reach double digits (11.6 per cent) in thefts of the episode.

Being a world leader is certainly a distinction, but this honour is not on par with, say, winning gold medals in Olympic swimming.

However, this column is not a pity party for Foxtel, which makes gobs of money off entertainment-hungry Aussies.

Nor am I trying to stir up fear in people whose Internet service providers were ordered by a Federal Court judge this week to turn over the identities of thousands of account holders whose connections allegedly were used to illegally share the movie Dallas Buyers Club.

But the crackdown serves as a timely reminder that piracy is stealing, which any small child will tell you is bad. And there are consequences for all actions, as Robb Stark learnt when he chose the wrong bride.

People have become used to free content on the Internet, and in many ways that is good. But some programming is certainly worth paying for.

When I watch GoT, I am impressed by the production design, the sheer lavishness and meticulous detail that grace every scene. Each episode costs millions of dollars to make, and all that money has to come from somewhere.

Episodic television has come a long way in recent years, and its all-embracing, big-budget quality is a major reason why it has so many devoted fans. If only half of Australian viewers pay for GoT and the other half steal each episode, as Foxtel claims, the funding dries up.

Then we are stuck with nothing but the lame reality shows free-to-air stations foist upon viewers because such rubbish is so cheap to make. And that’s too high price to pay.

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