Digital habits in Singapore: Many still accessing movies, music illegally

Some 51 per cent of respondents admitted to downloading pirated TV shows and movies illegally, despite the launch of several legal options in Singapore in recent years. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

Despite the availability of several legitimate options online, many people in Singapore are still illegally getting their movie and music fix on the Internet for free.

A survey of 1,000 people in May last year found that 63 per cent of respondents here said they were downloading or streaming content unauthorised at the time. The findings were released in February by consultancy Ernst & Young.

Top of the list of pirated content were TV shows and movies. Some 51 per cent of respondents admitted to downloading these files illegally.

Accessing music files online unauthorised came in second, with 48 per cent of people doing so.

Getting games illegally online was third, at 38 per cent.

This was despite the launch of several legal options here in recent years.

Video subscription services Netflix, Hooq and CatchPlay were all launched last year.

For music, Apple Music and Spotify were launched in 2015 and 2013, respectively. And online video game store Steam allowed gamers here to buy digital games in Singapore dollars from 2014.

But Mr Bryan Tan, technology partner at law firm Pinsent Masons MPillay, said that even with the rise of subscription services like Netflix and Spotify, "it is still hard to beat obtaining files from illegal downloads, which are completely free", noting the wide range of pirated content.

Said a 21-year-old retail assistant who did not wish to be named: "I know it is wrong to download those files but it doesn't cost me anything and it is also convenient."

Singapore fared worse for illegal downloads and streams than New Zealand (58 per cent) and Australia (46 per cent), but scored better than Malaysia (83 per cent).

The latest figures mirror earlier findings. A survey by research consultancy Sycamore Research and Marketing released in 2014 showed that 61 per cent of people here aged 16 to 64 said they had participated in movie and TV or music piracy.

Mr Ngiam Kwang Hwa, managing director of independent record label Rock Records Singapore, said piracy "is our biggest enemy" and causes a loss of sales revenue.

"We are trying hard to clamp down on piracy, but we need help from others such as the Government," he added.

Mr Tan said more could be done to persuade people to move away from digital piracy. "Consumers could be allowed to customise their subscriptions so they need not pay a large fee to watch only a few programmes," he said.

The same survey also found that privacy was a key concern among people here who used digital services, as 81 per cent felt organisations should be more transparent about how they use the consumer information collected.

Some 72 per cent of respondents were also worried about having their personal data - such as location and messages - accessed, while 66 per cent felt the same for their online habits and behaviour.

These findings could be due to greater awareness of the need to safeguard personal data since legislation like the Personal Data Protection Act was enacted, said Mr Tan.

Raynold Toh

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 03, 2017, with the headline Digital habits in Singapore: Many still accessing movies, music illegally. Subscribe