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  • Blog - Written by on Tuesday, October 4, 2011 9:47 - 21 Comments

    AFACT exposed: Insider investigator tells his story

    blog If you’ve always wondered what life is like at the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft, wonder no more. A former investigator for Australia’s self-appointed online piracy watchdog has spilled the beans on his activities working for the organisation.

    Some of our favourite sentences from the interview with private investigator Gavin Warren conducted by TorrentFreak relate to “Neil Gane, a former British Hong Kong Police Inspector who had been working in Malaysia with the MPAA against piracy”:

    “Mr Gane gave the impression of being very committed to stopping the evil scourge of piracy and was far more media savvy than his predecessor … Gane understood that the media was an essential tool towards AFACT’s goal of getting tougher copyright legislation in place.”

    Gane, of course, is still with AFACT as the group’s executive director.

    Now at this stage, it’s pretty much impossible to verify much of what Warren has alleged here; I doubt AFACT would comment on much of the story, after all (although we’ve reached out to them for comment). So we should take all of this with a grain of salt. And of course, it has been my experience that if you dig into most large organisations you’ll find the occasional bit of dodgy behaviour going on.

    However, if Warren’s testimony is accurate, then the story does paint a pretty disturbing picture of AFACT. From extrapolating busts into headline-grabbing piracy statistics, to courting the police and manipulating the media, I personally felt a little uncomfortable reading Warren’s account of the organisation. Is this the sort of organisation which should be negotiating with the Federal Government behind closed doors on the issue of online copyright infringement?


    Update: Delimiter has received the following statement from AFACT, attributable to executive director Neil Gane:

    AFACT rejects the claims made by Mr Warren who worked for AFACT as a sub contracted Private Investigator for three and a half years and who only makes these allegations after his services were no longer required. Independent and globally recognised researchers IPSOS & Oxford Economics have calculated the loss to the Australian movie industry as a result of movie theft. They are the ones qualified to gather statistics and to comment on their robustness – not disgruntled former employees.

    The IPSOS & Oxford Economics report entitled “Economic Consequences of Movie Piracy” can be found here (PDF).

    Image credit: Mateusz Stachowski, royalty free

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    1. Anon
      Posted 04/10/2011 at 10:55 am | Permalink |

      Nice journalism. Did you even ask AFACT for a comment?

      • Posted 04/10/2011 at 11:30 am | Permalink |

        It’s a blog post linked to someone else’s story. I don’t usually ask for a comment when I do that — that would have been TorrentFreak’s responsibility. Furthermore, is is quite rare for AFACT to comment in general unless it’s after one of their press releases etc.

        • Posted 04/10/2011 at 12:04 pm | Permalink |

          Still, it would be funny to get an official “no comment” from them… ;)

          • Posted 04/10/2011 at 3:16 pm | Permalink |

            Looks like we got a little bit more than that

    2. Marlon
      Posted 04/10/2011 at 11:56 am | Permalink |

      ““We discussed the formula for extrapolating the potential street value earnings of ‘laboratories’ and we were instructed to count all blank discs in our seizure figures as they were potential product. Mr Gane also explained that the increased loss approximation figures were derived from all forms of impacts on decreasing cinema patronage right through to the farmer who grows the corn for popping.”


      • Anonymous
        Posted 04/10/2011 at 5:26 pm | Permalink |

        Yeah the RIAA and MPAA do the same thing, they go onto torrents sites and say 50,000 downloads of something X the original cost of the product at time of release = the amount lost, they do that even if the product was released 30 years ago.

        That is starting to come up in the US court cases, because something released 30 years ago doesn’t cost the same as it would today, most young kids today couldn’t careless if led zeppelin was a big time band they just wouldn’t buy it today but they might pirate it for their dad or mum, so people are now starting to question, if that would be a sale or not.

        So the figures don’t really add up too much as many people might download something but after that never do anything more with it.

        I’ve bought games at release and never used them up to 3 years later, if I had downloaded that game the same thing would probably happen again.

        • Captain_stabbin
          Posted 05/10/2011 at 8:06 pm | Permalink |

          i don’t watch a fraction of the movies I download, i skim through quick to see if they are worth it first. And i have also been known to download old songs i have on cd rather than make the effort to find it amoung my collection

    3. Guest
      Posted 04/10/2011 at 12:01 pm | Permalink |

      never hurts to ask though… a bit more balance, accuracy and fairness in your anti-copyright articles wouldn’t go astray.

      Even if tru there’s hardly even a story here – when faced with the decision to estimate, AFACT oversestimated rather than underestimated.

      The police do the same with illegal substances, private organisations do the same if it evisaged that it will result in some commercial advantage. It’s no different to the pro-piracy lobby groups saying that piracy results in more money for copyright owners.

      • Posted 04/10/2011 at 12:33 pm | Permalink |

        OK, your nagging has worked, I gave AFACT a call for comment. Their spokesperson was out of the office, but he’ll be back in about an hour and a half and may comment then. You nagging bastard ;)

        • Posted 04/10/2011 at 12:49 pm | Permalink |

          “May” make a comment…

          …or “may not”…teehee!

    4. Anonymous
      Posted 04/10/2011 at 12:22 pm | Permalink |

      there have been other articles like this. Like a year or two ago AFACT claimed they busted a huge commercial piracy operation in Eastwood NSW. It turned out these “pirates” were producing material under licence.

      Of course AFACT made it sound like hundreds of thousands of pirated films were stopped from reaching the black market market. Overblown stats etc etc.

      of course the obtuse bastards only returned the confiscated material was returned after much cost and hassle.

    5. Piratepete
      Posted 04/10/2011 at 12:55 pm | Permalink |

      has no one from afact ever been to bali ? it blows my mind that i can come back form bali with a suitcase full of dvds brought from shops open to busy streets yet they spend so much time trying to get rid of piracy at the last step … its like locking up drug users and expecting the cartels to just give up O_o

      • Clinton O'Hara
        Posted 04/10/2011 at 1:38 pm | Permalink |

        that’s because the bottom of the food chain is easier to attack than the top.

      • Anonymous
        Posted 04/10/2011 at 5:31 pm | Permalink |

        The people in bali have no money therefore don’t bother with them.

        The people in Australia do,so you can sue people and expect a return on suing.

        They jail the drug users because they hope the lower sales will reduce the cartel money yet it never has nor never will I think this year or next drugs will be the highest money producing product you can make, it’s only behind guns and guns have only held steady where as drug sales have always gone up.

    6. Me.
      Posted 04/10/2011 at 3:23 pm | Permalink |


      Maybe if they actually made decent movies, people would buy them (I won’t fork out money for a shit movie, and if I ever obtain a non-purchased copy of a movie I like, I will buy it. Unfortunately, the amount of decent movies out these days are more close to 1 per year)

    7. Justin
      Posted 04/10/2011 at 6:34 pm | Permalink |

      Wasn’t that report debunked the moment it came out because they’d just taken a UK report and substituted Australia for UK? In addition, the original report they copied was also debunked for grossly inflating the impact.

    8. Posted 05/10/2011 at 8:36 am | Permalink |

      “They are the ones qualified to gather statistics and to comment on their robustness – not disgruntled former employees.”

      And of course, there wouldn’t be any “uncoloured” reason AFACT would want to vouch for the “robustness” of these statistics, would there?


    9. Posted 05/10/2011 at 10:01 am | Permalink |

      AFACT’s statement glosses over the fact that a “sub-contracted” employee is an employee nonetheless, and clearly in this case one who was intimately involved in their dirty work before online piracy became their cause célèbre. I don’t think it’s a big call to “extrapolate” AFACT’s current operations from those of Warren’s day.

    10. Harquebus
      Posted 05/10/2011 at 1:32 pm | Permalink |

      The gummint will go along, they’ve got nothin’ to lose. Definitely not votes anyway.

    11. Diss
      Posted 06/10/2011 at 11:04 pm | Permalink |

      Boycott Hollywood and vote Pirate Party.

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