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Copyright and Piracy

The subscription TV sector considers piracy and copyright theft a tangible threat to the viability of the industry.

In Australia the unauthorised access and use of subscription TV broadcasts is a serious crime.

Criminal offences include the making, selling, importing, hiring, trade or distribution of an unauthorised decoder. They also include the unauthorised use of a decoder, unauthorised distribution of a subscription broadcast to another premises or making an unauthorised decoder available online.

Part VAA of the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) (the Act) is the primary piece of legislation dealing with unauthorised access to encoded broadcasts. The original creative works of those involved in the subscription TV industry are also protected under the Copyright Act 1968.


ASTRA believes that acts of piracy have a number of flow-on consequences:

  • Loss of employment – piracy threatens the employment of more than 5,000 professionals working across the subscription TV industry, including technical, creative, administration, call centre and sales staff.
  • Lack of further investment in infrastructure, people and technology – since 1995 the industry has invested over $9 billion in people, infrastructure, technology and programming. Piracy has a financial cost and is detrimental to further industry development.
  • Increased subscription costs – the subscription TV industry is providing an ever increasing array of services to subscribers through the Foxtel and Optus as well as through products such as Xbox360 and Telstra T-box. Piracy will threaten the ability of subscription TV broadcasters to further expand their offering while containing subscription costs.
ASTRA and its members take the threat of piracy seriously. Privacy’s estimated cost to the industry is in the millions of dollars per year. The industry will remain vigilant and is working with the State and Federal police to prosecute those who are involved in pirate activity.

ASTRA also promotes the interests of its members by working with other organisations such as the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT) when applicable to assist in the development of the subscription TV industry. ASTRA is also a founding member of Australia’s Right to Know Coalition and works towards upholding the interests of free speech in Australia.

ASTRA Anti-Piracy Hotline: 1800 428 888

If you are aware of or suspect criminal activity related to decoding equipment or signal theft you can anonymously phone the ASTRA anti-piracy hotline.

What is subscription TV piracy?
Piracy occurs when a viewer or end user gains unauthorised access to a Subscription TV broadcast without payment to the relevant subscriptionTV provider. This can be either by use of pirate smart cards and unauthorised use of set top boxes. Piracy is also the sale, manufacture and distribution of ‘unauthorised decoders’.
Why is piracy so bad, it only affects the big companies who have plenty of money anyway?
Those who are affected by acts of piracy are the individuals who are employed by the industry. This includes professionals in areas such as technical, production, creative, sales, administration and call centre staff. Piracy has a financial affect that flows through to hurt employees.
Is signal theft a crime in other countries?
Signal theft is a crime in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and New Zealand. In 2006 the Australian Government changed the law to introduce new criminal penalties for persons who knowingly access and use subscription TV signals without the authorisation of the subscription TV provider.
How much does subscription TV privacy cost the industry?
Piracy’s estimated cost to the industry is in the millions of dollars per year.
What types of things are covered by copyright?
Copyright covers literary, musical, dramatic and artistic works as well as sound recordings, films, broadcasts and published editions. More information about copyright can be obtained from the Australian Copyright Council at
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Colleen Meldrum
Colleen Meldrum
Channel Manage and Head Of Programming, Foxtel Movies Disney & Family

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