SINGAPORE: There are 39 per cent of Singaporeans who have indicated that they are active in illegally streaming or downloading movies, TV shows or live sports channels, according to the latest survey findings from research firm Sycamore released on Tuesday (Sep 12).
The findings showed that almost half of the population admitted to having engaged in online piracy. The survey was released at a Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia (CASBAA)-sponsored event.
The study combined qualitative and quantitative methodologies, including a survey of 1,000 respondents in Singapore, weighted to be representative of the population. Another 300 users of illicit streaming devices were also surveyed to better understand the details of their behaviours, the press release on the survey findings said.
Sycamore research director Anna Meadows said on Tuesday that the firm has conducted industry research in markets such as Australia, New Zealand and Taiwan, but Singapore's active piracy rate is the highest.
She qualified to say the studies are not apple-to-apple comparisons. For instance, the Australia study showed that 27 per cent are actively pirating content, but the number did not include those who use illicit streaming devices.
The study noted that illicit streaming devices, specifically TV boxes, are “changing the face of piracy” in the country, with 14 per cent admitting to using such a device.
This finding was picked up on by CASBAA’s chief policy officer John Medeiros, who said in the press release that the admitted use of such TV boxes is “much greater” in Singapore than in other developed markets such as the United States and the United Kingdom.
Mr Medeiros added: “While these numbers are already concerning, they rely on the candour of respondents and undoubtedly underestimate the true scale of the problem.”
PIRACY A “SOCIALLY ACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOUR”
The Sycamore study also found that while two-thirds of Singaporeans agree that piracy is stealing, it also showed that nearly three-quarters of the population consider piracy to be a normal or typical behaviour.
For Singaporeans who admitted to actively streaming or downloading pirated content, they said their primary incentive behind this behaviour is that it costs nothing to pirate with 63 per cent of respondents indicating that this factor motivated their actions.
On the flip side, while there are downsides to piracy, such as the risk of their devices being infected with viruses or malware, this risk is “underweighted”, the study found.
Ms Meadows said: “In the face of the benefit of free content, people appear to discount the risks, as the idea of getting something for nothing is so psychologically powerful.”
She added that the notion that piracy is something everybody does these days makes it a “socially acceptable behaviour”.
An earlier study by technology company Muso showed that among the world's top countries for online piracy last year, Singapore came in within the top 10. Its Piracy Demand Rank, which calculates the number of visits to piracy sites as a ratio to the country's Internet population, had Singapore at ninth place with 179.38 visits per Internet user.
That said, 68 per cent of Singaporeans recognise that pirating movies, TV shows or sporting events is stealing or theft, the study found.
“Interestingly, even among active pirates, almost a third agree that authorities should be able to take more action to deter piracy,” Ms Meadows elaborated.
Commenting on the findings, Singtel’s managing director of Home, Consumer Singapore Goh Seow Eng, said: “Singtel respects intellectual property rights and stands firmly against piracy and unauthorised downloading, sharing and streaming of copyright-protected content. The proliferation of illicit streaming devices in Singapore is a worrying trend."
StarHub’s chief marketing officer Howie Lau described piracy and illicit streaming as a “serious threat to the creative industry”.
“The increase in piracy is alarming and runs counter to Singapore’s ambitions to be a Smart Nation. StarHub respects intellectual property rights and we will continue to work closely with our content and government partners to uphold legal rights,” he added.
CASBAA's Mr Medeiros pointed out that the Singapore Government has started consulting the industry regarding changes to the Copyright Act last year, and the organisation has provided its proposal.
One of its suggestions was for the Government to “conduct energetic enforcement actions” to crack down on piracy here, the CASBAA executive said during the event.
He added that some of the measures by neighbouring countries, such as Thailand’s shut-down of Thai Expat TV in May, were held up as examples for consideration.
"Respect for intellectual property is key as we seek to grow our digital economy and the media and innovation ecosystems," said the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore and the Info-communications Media Development Authority of Singapore in a joint statement.
"We support the efforts of industry players in raising awareness of intellectual property issues, and urge viewers to be mindful not to infringe copyright and to consume legitimate content," they added.