CHOICE says it is time to fast forward copyright past the VHS era

New survey shows one-in-seven Aussies are breaking the law - but may not even know it

CHOICE today released new research* showing - one in seven (14%) consumers are - breaking the law by copying music or – videos they own onto devices like iPods and tablet computers for personal use, highlighting the absurdity of Australia’s outdated copyright regime.

CHOICE has provided the research to the Australian Law Reform Commission’s (ALRC) Copyright Inquiry, with a call to bring Australia’s copyright laws into the 21st century.

“Our current law says it’s OK to copy a song onto one device, like your iPod, but illegal to copy it onto two, like your iPod and iPad. But that’s exactly what 8 per cent of Australians who answered our survey say they have done in the past year,” says Matt Levey, CHOICE Director of Campaigns and Communications.

“It’s also illegal to copy a video file, say from a DVD, onto another device like a tablet, but that has not stopped 9 per cent of Australians who say they have done it. Hardly surprising, given that 57 per cent of Australians told us they believe this action is legal.” Mr Levey says.

CHOICE is supporting the ALRC’s move to upgrade Australia’s copyright system with a ‘fair use’ approach that rewards creators and copyright holders without unfairly restricting consumer rights or holding back new technologies.

The consumer group says current laws have not only failed to keep up with the changing ways Australians are using digital products, they are also denying local consumers and businesses the benefits of innovation.

“In 1987, over half[1] Australian households had a VCR, but it only became legal to record TV shows at home in 2006. By then, 83 per cent of us had DVD players,[2] and Apple had already been selling movies and TV shows on iTunes for a year.” [3] Mr Levey says.

“Now, consumers are increasingly streaming, storing and backing up data in the cloud, but Australians risk being denied new services because our laws are stuck in the VHS age.”

“Governments can talk all they like about encouraging innovation, but when some of the biggest digital breakthroughs coming out of places like Silicon Valley aren’t even legal in Australia, it shows we need to fast forward our way to fair use.”

CHOICE largely supports the Fair Use system proposed by the ALRC, which received over 290 submissions from stakeholders, including content producers.

This proposed system would include ‘fairness factors’ to protect copyright against infringement or other uses which may have a large impact on the market for the copyrighted material.

“Fair Use will allow consumers greater use of content they legally own, while at the same time protecting content producers and artists. America has a Fair Use system, and is one of the largest producers of copyrighted content in the world,” Mr Levey says.

“Allegations that Fair Use will encourage piracy are ludicrous, and exhibit a fundamental misunderstanding of how a Fair Use system will work.”

CHOICE has made a submission to the Commission’s review. It is now calling on consumers to pledge their support for Fair Use at

Media contact

Tom Godfrey, CHOICE Head of Media – 0430 172 669

How broken is our copyright system?

  • 60% of consumers in our survey agree that they should able to transfer content they legally own to as many devices as they own, while only 5% disagree. Under Australian law, music can only be transferred to one device, and digital video files, like movies, cannot be transferred to any devices.
  • Just over half (52%) of consumers incorrectly believe that making a copy of music to listen to on more than one device is legal.
  • Of social media users surveyed by CHOICE, 42% shared a photo they found online in the past 12 months, originally taken by someone they do not know, which is illegal in most cases.
  • 22% of consumers in our survey are currently using cloud storage services, such as Google Drive or Dropbox, to store copyrighted content, such as music and films, in violation of current copyright laws.

To read more on CHOICE tests, reviews and campaigns, go to

* Survey details:

  • CHOICE conducted a comprehensive survey among 1,000 Australian consumers who personally use or have content consuming devices such as computers, tablets, smartphones etc.
  • The online survey was conducted from July 2- July 12, 2013.
  • The participants were recruited from the Lightspeed Research panel and the results were analysed by The Acid Test and CHOICE.

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