Nearly half of Australians who consume digital content have engaged in illegal copyright infringement, according to research from the Australian and UK governments..

Forty three per cent of Australian digital consumers accessed at least one online file illegally between March and May this year, compared to only one fifth of UK citizens, representing 26 per cent of Australian internet users overall.

Movies were the most popular form of digital content being accessed illegally by Australians, with 48 per cent accessing at least one movie illegally between March and May, compared to just 25 per cent of Britons.

Music was second most likely to involve breach of copyright, with 37 per cent of Australians accessing music illegally, while proving most popular in the UK with 26 per cent.

Thirty three per cent of Australian digital consumers accessed at least one TV program online illegally compared with 21 per cent of Brits, while 22 per cent of Australians and 18 per cent of Brits accessed video games illegally.

The Australian survey found people would likely stop infringing if legal content was cheaper (39 per cent), more available (38 per cent), and had the same release date as other countries (36 per cent). Forty three per cent of Australian internet users stated that they were not confident of what is legal online content.

The Department of Communications commissioned the Australian survey from market research firm, Taylor Nelson Sofres (TNS) Australia.

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The research pointed to the need for heightened efforts by rights holders to make legal online content available to Australian internet users in a timely and affordable way, said Communications Alliance CEO, John Stanton.

"It is interesting that almost three quarters of those internet users who consumed content illegally were also accessing content legally -- they were apparently not just looking exclusively for a 'free ride', but also were chasing the convenience that comes with ready availability of content," said Stanton.

The results come following recent amendments to the Copyright Act 1968, which enable the blocking of infringing overseas websites, and complement the Copyright Notice Scheme Industry Code that is currently being developed by both rights holders and internet service providers.

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Only 21 per cent of infringers said they would be encouraged to stop infringing if they received a letter from their ISP saying their account would be suspended.

"While there is a role for a copyright notice scheme Code in Australia to assist in fighting infringement, more work needs to be done to make legal content more affordable and more available, to combat the root causes of infringing activity." Mr Stanton said.

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