Exetel may balk Movie Rights Group’s demands


news National broadband provider Exetel has signalled it may modify its core business systems to make it more difficult for anti-piracy organisations such as Movie Rights Group to target its customers for allegedly illegally downloading content through platforms like BitTorrent.

Several weeks ago, it was revealed that Movie Rights Group — a new company — had approached every major Australian ISP seeking information on users who had allegedly infringed copyright online, initially seeking the details of some 9,000 Australians who it claimed had downloaded the film Kill the Irishman. There are plans to broaden the company’s efforts to other films.

Unlike the other major Australian organisation representing the film industry, the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft, Movie Rights Group is taking a different approach to piracy. Instead of legally targeting ISPs for the actions of their users, it will merely seek to subpoena customer information from the ISPs and contact those who had allegedly infringed its copyright directly, seeking to settle the matter out of court or through legal action.

The Federal Government has since proposed to streamline the legal subpoena process.

However, in a blog post published yesterday, Exetel chief executive John Linton noted his company may implement workarounds to its systems which would make it difficult for such a legal process to be possible.

“The appearance of scum like the Movie Group [has] forced Exetel to have to consider the base ways we operate the core systems of our business, simply because we must now consider which is the greater of the evils our current society has forced us to confront,” Linton wrote.

“In this case, it is do we go out of our way to protect those of our customers who knowingly and willfully steal other people’s property or do we allow them to be exposed to even scummier elements of our society … who might be able, amazingly and disappointingly, to use the Australian court system to allow them to be blackmailed?”

Linton said it was “a tough decision” for his business to make — and one that would likely cost it over $200,000 if it did implement systems to make Movie Rights Group’s legal process difficult to follow — which Linton noted Exetel “almost certainly” would.

“So by the end of this week copyright theft by some percentage of our customers will cost Exetel something over $200,000 to ensure blackmailing scum can’t target our law-breaking customers,” the executive added.

It remains unclear just how Exetel plans to get around the legal process being used by Movie Rights Group. The process relies on the company producing a significant body of evidence that would allow a court to ascertain that content was being illegally downloaded to or uploaded from an IP address belonging to one of Exetel’s customers. The court would then, under the process, issue an order that Exetel identify that customer.

One way which Exetel may be able to avoid identifying its customers to Movie Rights Group is to avoid keeping records of which customers were using a certain IP address at a certain time — or even to regularly change the IP addresses being used by its customers. By distancing itself from that level of information, the organisation may be able to argue in court that it doesn’t hold the information which Movie Rights Group is seeking.

For his own part, Linton made it clear that he doesn’t approve of either anti-piracy “scum” like Movie Rights Group or customers who illegally downloaded content. “Personally, I was brought up to respect other people’s ownership of property and have lived my life to date on that basis,” he wrote. “Clearly my parents and educators belong to a past era … in a society where lying exceeds truth by an overwhelming margin it is a matter of indifference that base ethics, let alone common courtesy, is progressively ever more absent from social interaction.”

Exetel has examined the FetchTV offering for Internet video which is being promoted by Optus, iiNet, Internode and Adam Internet, Linton noted, but he didn’t believe it would represent a substantial alternative to on-demand video systems available internationally but not in Australia, such as Netflix.

It’s a funny world. John Linton, who broadly detests those who use his company’s to infringe copyright, is nonetheless prepared to put up a fight against organisations which would seek to target his customers. iiNet, on the other hand, which is already fighting the movie studios in court, has already rolled over and is supporting the legal process being used by Movie Rights Group.

And yet, somehow I’m not surprised by Linton’s approach.

The executive is cut from the old school of business owners. He resents anyone who attempts to make his business life harder for him, and he’s not going to just simply let himself or his customers be railroaded to serve someone else’s interests. In fact, if it wasn’t for Linton’s initial blog post on Movie Rights Group, the issue wouldn’t even be in the public limelight to start with.

So I raise my hat to the plain-spoken executive. So far, he’s the only ISP executive in Australia to publicly flag plans to stand up for the rights of his customers and protect his own company’s data. It’s an approach that clearly customers want, at least to some extent, from their ISPS.

Furthermore, if Australia’s other ISPs would take a similar approach, it might force the content owners to provide legitimate options for getting film and TV content into Australian homes over the Internet. God knows they’ve done a pretty poor job of it so far.

Image credit: Asif Akbar, royalty free


  1. “It’s a funny world. John Linton, who broadly detests those who use his company’s to infringe copyright, is nonetheless prepared to put up a fight against organisations which would seek to target his customers.”

    This is the same John Linton and company that (at present) roll over and pass on copyright infringments and such? That being the entire point of the article?

    So we’re being told that Exetel is considering making it harder for infringement claims, because right now they happily pass on claims, and yet Linton is the hero for deciding to make that harder for complainants to do what they can already do today?


    • *shrugs*

      I agree that Exetel does normally roll over and forward the infringement notices on — and it does have a disconnection policy after a few of them etc. However, you have to give Linton credit for sticking to his guns this time.

      • Could be just a play to attract customers. It does open him up to similar case to the iiNet one. Setting up your network with the explicit purpose of making it impossible to identify infringers… dangerous ground, especially if you just spouted it to the public.

      • Disconnection policy? I thought they abandoned that around the time of the iiNet/AFACT court case ruling. They still pass on the emails, but no block pages where you need to deny that their was any infringement or eventual disconnections.

    • I think you’re comparing passing on an infringement notice, which has little immediate impact (the worst of which might be a disconnect which is a few weeks’ inconvenience and some new set up fees) and having a large group of Exetel customers being each sent letters of demand for several thousand dollars under the threat of a court case which might have a settlement of hundreds of thousand dollars.

    • The difference is, currently Exetel passes on a warning to customers, advising that they have been accused of copyright threat and that they should either cease that behaviour, or else deny that it happened. Either way, it is done via a click (equivalent to ticking a box and declaring the statement).

      The actions he is blocking is the handing of the customer’s information TO the accuser, who’s business is the “blackmail” of customers. The company does not make material, they are effectively standover men who get a commission for each payment extracted from customers (noting that the “payments” are in lieu of court action – in other words, “pay us $5000 or we *may* bankrupt you in court” or similar).

  2. Might not always agree with what he says(I agree in this case) but I never have to read between the lines to try and work out what he is saying either have to respect him for that.

  3. If they stick to this agenda, when Im out of contract with my current provider they might just earn themselves a customer. Nice work Exetel

  4. Anti-piracy blackmailing scum? hmm he forgot to add dubious, [edited], and get rich quick merchants into that statement… but I suspect everyone else is saying that anyway.

  5. What ever happened to privacy? Where did it go?

    This Movie Rights Group is just demanding details of people “it suspects” of downloadin some film illegally. Do the ISPs not have a duty of care to their customers to PROTECT their customer’s private information?

    And last time I checked, you can’t just waltz into a court with an IP address and say to a magistrate, “Hey, I reckon this fella behind this IP address illegally downloaded a movie, I would now like his ISP to give me his personal details so I can contact him directly and shake him down.”

    If Telstra turned over my details without a subpoena I’d file a complaint with the OIAC.

    I think the answer to this is that the movie industry needs to get better, somehow, about protecting their content. Suing end users and shaking people down under threat of court action isn’t really working.

    • You wrote: “And last time I checked, you can’t just waltz into a court with an IP address and say to a magistrate, “Hey, I reckon this fella behind this IP address illegally downloaded a movie, I would now like his ISP to give me his personal details so I can contact him directly and shake him down.”
      If Telstra turned over my details without a subpoena I’d file a complaint with the OIAC.”

      You do know what a subpoena is, right? It’s what the judge signs off on when someone does “waltz into court with an IP address” and expresses intention to pursue legal remedy for infringement.

      Just because you don’t like the way the process is being applied (and neither do I!) doesn’t make it any less legal.

  6. How would this decision impact the enforcement by LEO’s for other ppl, there needs to be a record to catch the more undesirables in our community.

  7. John Linton is advocating changing Exetel into the new child porn safe haven? If he is telling the truth and either deleting logs immediately or putting in some advanced system to slur the tracking of IP’s to stop anti piracy groups, it most certainly stops law enforcement from the same identification of illegal activities such as Child porn or other police lookups to find predators. Did he even think this through?

    • An intercept order would be presented to the ISP by the appropriate authorities and data packets (and browsing behaviour) would subsequently be captured (as at the intercept order date). Also, the computer of the perpetrator would be seized as evidence. I doubt knowing what IP you had back in Jan or May will be relevant as in many cases a sting (or “honey-pot”) operation will be undertaken to lure the rock-spiders.

      • So a major European Child porn ring is smashed and European authorities send the Australian federal police a bunch of evidence from the servers they confiscate, they send 20 IP’s of the most prolific CP uploaders in Australia with IP’s and time stamps to help identify the paedophiles. This data goes back 5 months and one would hope the Australian police are able to find out from the ISP’s who these people are and get search warrants on their home computers and lock them up if CP is found.

    • I assume that Exetel would still be metering traffic. meaning that it needs to track users, but is likely to be not storing that history. I would assume that police investigations take place over a number of months to gather evidence. Therefore it is unlikely that this approach would interfere with the ability of police to investigate serious crime.

  8. who cares what these douchebags do.
    grab a vpn and only use private trackers, there is nothing in the world they can do then to try and get any info on you…….

    • Don’t be too confident, with effort they can still show that you own or use the VPN, and they can also show that the vpn downloaded/uploaded content.

      But because there is that extra step (and depending on where the VPN is and how it operates), normally they won’t bother, and just go after the easy targets. Normally the most common p2p progs connected directly to someones home.

      The easiest targets are Mum and Dads who have unsecured wireless internet that the dodgy neighbours are leaching off.

      As soon as said Mum and Dad get a sopeana they will most likely panic and pay the requested amount, then pay again to have some IT company come and secure their network.

  9. This is pretty easy to understand. John Linton resents abuse of power, whether by Governments, monopoly Telcos or the film industry – especially if it impacts on his business, and he’s not shy about standing up for his beliefs. No ulterior motive, no double standard.

    • “John Linton resents abuse of power, whether by Governments, monopoly Telcos or the film industry – especially if it impacts on his business, and he’s not shy about standing up for his beliefs.”

      So why do Exetel have a long history of immediately forwarding “claims” from the same douche bags in different clothing? Or are we going to ignore that?

      He may resent the use of power, but his company doesn’t seem to care in the slightest.

      John says a lot of things; I respect that he speaks his mind, but he also has a long history of grandstanding on various ideals his company apparently has no knowledge of. He likes to play the “rebel”; again his company never seems to reflect that.

      Do what I say, just not what I do?

      • Passing on the infringement notices to the person doing the infringing is a good thing for the downloader.

        It informs the downloader that their actions are being monitored by someone. That way the downloader can stop it, or continue at their own peril. But they have at least received the ‘heads up’

        • “Passing on the infringement notices to the person doing the infringing is a good thing for the downloader.”

          That wasn’t my point. My point is the John Linton is making a noise about resisting, whilst his company Exetel does the exact opposite to his supposed high-and-mighty ideals.

          John may have a cult following, but what he says, does not bare witness to what he does.

  10. Only taken 10 posts for somebody to drag child pornography into a copyright discussion, well done AFACT trolls you never fail to amaze or disappoint.

  11. Ever thought that it could be making the actual cost of recovering the information very expensive. $100’s instead of $20-$50.

    This way the group has to be sure of their information or else it will be too expensive an exercise.

    Legal process still occurs but becomes expensive for those initiating it.

  12. Exetel. Porn Hub. Kiddie Porn Hub. Terrorist Hub. Focus of serious attention from AFP, ASIS, FBI, CIA to name a few. The man is actually standing on an IED!

  13. People who brag about VPNs have NO IDEA what is out there in terms of tracking capability. You are seriously deluded if you think you can hide today, whether the matter at hand be civil or criminal. It is correct to “drag into” a discussion where someone has openly declared their intention to obstruct authorities in the carrying out of their duties to protect the community, the matter of child pornography. Unless, of course, the person decrying such is involved in such activity. Many here should familiarise themselves with the law, even at a basic level, and try and understand the difference between civil and criminal offences. Once so familiarised, your commentary may be taken more seriously. No individual or corporation in this country can just roll over and pass on private and confidential material unless required to do so a Court under an Order or something akin to a Warrant. Remember, as imperfect as we see the law from time to time, it is actually designed to protect the innocent and punish the evildoer. If you don’t like it, then either have yourself elected to Office and try and change it, lobby your local member to do the same, or move to another country that more closely supports your view of the World.

  14. Stop talking about child porn. You people are extremely ignorant.

    All Australian ISP’s allow the federal government to deep packet inspect everything coming and going out of all ISP’s constantly. It’s used for tracking child porn, as well as terrorist activity and other assorted criminal activity. It is maybe not widely known but as soon as a ‘fingerprinted’ file [such as child porn] is sent or received on an Australian ISP it’s detected and traced by the Federal Police. There logging is much more advanced and detailed

    The federal goverment will have records of everyone’s connections it’s just Movie Rights Group or other such scum certainly won’t have any access to it..

    • Ah well Bob, I guess we can take it from a knowledgable insider like yourself that all our base are belong to da man…

      …btw, who the hell is talkin' bout da cp here? Or am I just extremely ignorant?

      Anyhoo, for the first time in a decade I find myself cheering the Big L, you go guy and who knows, you might even get me signed up one day!

  15. Mr. Linton is probably more worried, as all ISP's should be, that when people can no longer download hundreds of gigabytes of pirated data per month, they will all switch plans to the lower downloads and cheapest plans. After all, why would anyone want an expensive 200 Gb or Unlimted plan when they won't be using anywhere near their download quota? The ISP's are going to lose mega dollars and they know it.

    • Agreed – I reckon ISPs in Australia have a vested financial interest in piracy due to the volumetric pricing structure of broadband service. That never real came out in iiNet v AFACT case, but it might still.

    • Of course, no-one would ever use a high-GB plan to download movies and music from iTunes.

      Nice try, AFACT shill.

      • sure they can; but back in reality, the majority don’t. Bittotent traffic is the most prevalent Internet traffic on Australia’s ISPs networks and the vast majoirty of that is unlawful. ISPs know this and they make money from this. You and I both know that if unlawful file sharing was extinguished today, a huge portion of ISP customers with high use data plans would be on the phone to their ISP demanding to move to lower price/lower data plans immediately.

        You can talk about exceptions, and exceptions to exceptions, till the cows come home – it doesn’t really achieve anything useful though,….

        • Wrong.

          If the downloads stopped, the ISP would not need as many big fat expensive pipes to the Internet so they cancel them, and the leases on the expensive routers to support them.

          Costs to the ISP go down as does the financial and legal risk.

        • but back in reality, the majority don’t. Bittotent traffic is the most prevalent Internet traffic on Australia’s ISPs networks

          Done your research to back that up? Or just a guess?

  16. In the last 5 years, I’ve gone from Buying DVD’s of all content (I was living in the UK at the time, and a new release movie is <$10 from the local supermarket, you can grab it when you get milk & bread)
    to watching everything on free-to-air, either live or recorded when we moved to Australia, stuffed if i'm paying $20-$40 for a movie! (This stopped when the Australian TV networks couldn't keep their programs on schedule and I would end up missing half an episode on a recording #channel9FAIL)..
    To Torrents (this stopped when I found a better / faster way)
    To Usenet (I still grab an occasional film from here, but perhaps ~1/month now?)
    To VPN+Netflix, wow.. Legal content, $8USD / month for unlimited TV + Movies (Streamed) straight to my TV, they have Subtitles (most australian download movie sites don't), so cheap!! Bigpond movies $5-$6 each, again stuff that…

    Netflix in Australia for ~$10 a month would stop 90+ % of internet piracy.

    • ^Very much this. I would happily pay $10-$20 per month for a service that lets me download anything I want to watch as soon as it first becomes available. I have looked at FetchTV but the content just isn’t there for it to be worth it.

    • “wow.. Legal content, $8USD / month for unlimited TV”

      Well, the legality in Australia via a VPN is very grey.

      But I certainly agree that this is the future of this kind of media…

      But the copyright holders will hold onto their high profit items for as long as possible anyway.

    • I agree, this is the future, decent streaming services providing content on demand at a price we can afford. I am ready to sign up as soon as Netflix comes to Australia. Make the content affordable and convenient and no one will bother pirating.

  17. I just wish these copyright holders would stop fighting piracy with tactics like these and others like DRM (which end up disadvantaging the paying customer) and instead look at why piracy is so successful. They may just find that it’s not simply a case of pirated material being free that encourages so many people to do it, but also:

    * Quality of content compared to retail price; a lot of media is overpriced for what it is.
    * Availability
    * Convenience/on-demand
    * Media quality; the on-demand services that are available normally don’t offer content is as high as quality as I can obtain it illegally. iTunes and Netflix are two good examples.

    Pirates aren’t all selfish tight-asses.

  18. Where does he get this 200,000 figure from … ? some sort of new IP anonymising hardware? Employing a couple of new developers? Software to be pushed out to his users to make them untraceable? Surely its just a matter of deleting some IP connection history from their records …

  19. I used to not like the stance and sound of Linton and always said I would never ever sign up with Exetel considering what they stand for. Having read the above article I change my mind to a large extent and based on this would now consider joining up with them! Well done linton for understanding what is really going on here and seeing the wider picture here. I still do not fully agree with your stance regarding ethics and copyright theft however because I understand the totality of the system and what is really going on and the facade that has been created.

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