Govt proposes “streamlined” piracy controls


news The Federal Government has proposed to modify federal regulations to make it easier for anti-piracy organisations to request details of alleged Internet pirates from ISPs, in a modified process which would make it easier for organisations such as Movie Rights Group and AFACT to pursue individuals allegedly illegally downloading content online.

The details of the proposal are contained in a discussion paper released by Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland this morning (PDF). The paper primarily discusses a change to legislation that would widen so-called Safe Harbour rules protecting organisations such as ISPs from the actions of their users.

However, a second section deals with what the Department of the Attorney-General described as “streamlining” the process whereby content owners could seek ISP subscriber details in copyright infringement matters.

“Widespread unauthorised downloading and use of file-sharing applications has made it increasingly difficult for copyright owners to successfully commercialise their property in the digital environment,” the paper states. “The difficulty of identifying persons engaged in infringing activities has also made it very difficult for copyright owners to protect and enforce their rights.”

The paper acknowledged Federal Court rules currently contained a general discovery procedure which could enable a copyright holder to obtain the details of a potential infringer from an ISP. This is the process which a new company, Movie Rights Group, has proposed in its current action to seek the details of some 9,000 Australians it alleges have illegally downloaded the film Kill the Irishman.
Movie Rights Group is also planning to target other alleged infringers over other films.

However, the paper stated, the process had been criticised as “cumbersome and expensive in the case of multiple online infringers”.

“There may be advantages in considering whether it is desirable to adopt a more streamlined procedure for copyright owners to identify ISP subscribers who engage in online copyright infringement,” it added.

The paper noted that any “streamlined” process would require judicial oversight, as well as taking into account the legal obligations of ISPs under both the Privacy Act and the Telecommunications Act — with a Federal Court Judge or Magistrate being required to issue an order authorising an ISP to provide details of a particular subscriber to a copyright owner — once sufficient detail had been provided (an IP address, the copyrighted material, the dates the alleged downloading had occurred and so on).

Cases in the US have shown that, once those details have been obtained, the copyright owner will often issue a letter to the alleged infringers, requesting they settle the copyright owner’s legal claim on the matter, or face legal action. It is believed that this is the approach which Movie Rights Group will take in Australia.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland revealed the discussion paper in a speech this morning to the Copyright Symposium, an event held by the Australian Copyright Council, an organisation which counts among its members Australian publishers across multiple categories — books, newspapers, film, music and more.

The full text of McClelland’s speech is available online. In it, the Attorney-General stated that “one of the most significant challenges” for copyright industries was “illegal file sharing and downloading”. McClelland highlighted two recent reports published by the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft, and the newly formed Australian Content Industry Group, to illustrate the issue.

“Both reports outline economic harm caused by piracy which includes, GDP loss, jobs foregone and tax losses,” McClelland stated.

The politician also referred to the recent closed door talks between the ISP industry and the content industry over the issue. “This preliminary discussion was very successful with industry bringing many innovative ideas to the table,” said McClelland. “The Government intends to continue this discussion with key copyright and internet service provider stakeholders to further build on the progress that has been made.”

“I note that an agreement was recently reached in the United States between creative industries and internet service providers, whereby internet service providers will send out notices to users who are found to be distributing infringing material online. I am optimistic that collaborative approaches to online copyright infringement can also be implemented in Australia.”

“As the Greek Philosopher Heraclitus said, “Nothing endures but change.” The ongoing success of Australia’s copyright industries depends upon our ability to adapt to change and strike the appropriate balance between providing incentives for creators and opportunities for the market.”

Image credit: Office of the Attorney-General


  1. “Widespread unauthorised downloading and use of file-sharing applications has made it increasingly difficult for copyright owners to successfully commercialise their property in the digital environment,”
    Thats funny, I havn’t seen any half reasonable attempt by them to make their content available digitally in Australia.

    • Also consider that the software industry is very capable of “commercializing their property in the digital environment”, just look at steam or (whatever phone) appstore.

      Clearly its a case of the music and movie industry being unable to grasp the basics of technology.

      It is disturbing how successful they appear to be at manipulating the government, not allowing the government to hear opposing voices.

      • and also consider the reporting from content industries for the last FY. they are doing pretty damn well thankyouverymuch for an industry thats allegedly under the pump from the feelthy pirates.

        far from increasingly difficult i see more opportunities but im in my PC chair, not in an office in one of these outfits…. or in government it seems. the content industries definitely have to do a lot more on their part to get content TO our market rather than letting it out in drips and drabs. theyd have a lot more people onside if they actually made an effort.

      • In regards to Steam.

        uTorrent on 29.41% of systems
        BitTorrent on 5.28% of systems
        Vuze on 4.37% of systems
        BitComet on 2.44% of systems

        One might argue 41.5% of Steam users, who purchase games legally, also have a BitTorrent client…

        My conclusion to this would be many pirates are more than happy to pay games if the content delivery method is sensible.

        • My conclusion to this would be 41.5% of steam users also have a BitTorrent client, now the real question is how many of that 41.5% are actual pirates?

    • Well, if you did actually look, you’d find failed effort after failed effort. The reality is online distribution of movies is a dicey proposition. There hasn’t been a lot of success out there. Australia is piss-ant in size, and despite some vocal piracy advocates (honest, I’m only doing it as a protest against a broken distribution model) it just wouldn’t get the uptake with most Aussies not even in the headspace of getting their movies online. Netflix is your pinup child but if it hadn’t launched streaming off the back of an amazing DVD business their online aspirations would still only be a glint in Reed Hastings eye.

      • lol… Simon Gilligan… the lone voice of sanity amid the populist throng of the self-righteous and the self-entitled…

        you got to love the arguments being presented… because content producers / distributors refuse to stupidly commoditise their valuable creative works or IP at $5 or $1 a pop, therefore we have a right to breach their copyright and engage in piracy.

        yes, trying to forcibly reduce the value of other people’s unique creative output to the status of a $2 ACME plastic toy gives you the moral high ground… NOT.

        let the flaming begin…

        *applies protective gel and dons heat protective visor*

      • Does this mean it’s impossible, or that maybe the industry just isn’t trying all that hard? As you say, Netflix’s streaming model works well, as does Hulu’s — clearly a working model is possible.

        • The question is it commercially viable?

          Consider Netflix – a company now 14 years hold, built with $32 million startup capital, now has 23.6 million subscribers. It took 12 years to get their business to a point where they could underwrite the streaming efforts and weather their streaming losses. Hulu – amazing effort to hit profitability with 1 million members (of 300 million Americans). Funded by some very deep pockets.

          Now take those two companies and translate them to working in a regional context of Australia. Those commercial profiles are a scary proposition here. Netflix has needed Australia’s entire population to be signed to find the customer base to support their streaming efforts. Going to happen here? no. Hulu is considered wildly popular – but at 1 million members has less than a 0.5% adoption rate in the US. In AU – that would bring maybe, 80,000 customers? Is that viable here? no.

          We’re a tiny market and every effort here so far, has failed or is sustaining losses. I’ve spoken to one studio biz dev person (here in au) who said iTMS is their biggest online customer, but they make literally no money out of it. For them it’s a way of assessing demand for the content online and learning about that distribution model.

          But .. digital distribution could be global, why can’t netflix/hulu/whoever just extend their network to here? Ultimately I’m sure they will. If Apple can do it, others can. However, you don’t reform global industries that have developed via local distribution networks in the space of a few years. The local distribution networks are commoditised, very efficient and deliver their content to retail aggregators (e.g. jb hifi/ezydvd/videoezy) which still give the customer a huge range of choice in one place. They are still very valuable.

          The industry is trying to move to a unified distribution model – streaming and physical media. Ultraviolet ( is an example of where that’s going. It’s very early days, but we’ll see where it goes.

  2. Where’s the corresponding legislation for increasing fair use protection and compulsory licensing? :)

  3. If they are going to provide a faster, easier and cheaper way of making accusations, they need to provide a faster, easier and cheaper way of defending against those accusations.

    As the current proposal stands it is going to make legalised extorion simple. ie someone’s demanding money but you can’t afford to defend yourself in court. Easy money regardless if you are in the wrong or not. I process needs to be in place where you can argue your case without $400 an hour lawyers and an agreement reached.

    I believe there also needs to be limit on the financial penalty imposed. If I download Kill the Irishman, and 20 people download it from me, I should not be accused of 20 x copyright infringement. You know that 20 people got it from me, so the other 20 downloaders should be puresued individually. Doing both would effectively be double dipping.

    Also, the financial loss to the producers should not be counted in the thousands or tens of thousands of dollars. The financial penalty should be the actual loss incurred. ie the cost of a movie ticket or the purschase price of the DVD, plus a fixed overhead. Just like the fixed overhead that is proposed for the ISP.

    • You download “kill the irishman” you have made 1 copy.
      20 people download “kill the irishman” from you, you have made 0 copies.
      20 people have made 1 copy each.

        • That’s exactly what they’re getting people for, and why they’re cracking down specifically on torrents (because you share by default).

          I think the arguments in the posts you’re replying to are a little flawed, it’s pretty clear from the warnings at the start of any DVD that sharing them in any way (including torrents) would be a breach of copyright.

        • Those 20 people also facilitated you making your copy though.

          Remember you don’t download a whole file at once then upload it.

          You download piece 1, 2 and 3 from mr seed, you give piece 1 and get 4 from A give 2 and 4 and get 5 from B etc, the system is almost designed to “technically” mean you sent the movie to 20 people, but those 20 people helped YOU, and seriously, how many people seed for a 20:1 ratio? I’d personally be surprised if many Australians seeded beyond a 1:1 or 2:1 (upload/download) ratio.

          In which case they only really facilitated 1 or maybe 2 copies, not 20.

        • In which case they only really facilitated 1 or maybe 2 copies, not 20.

          Yeah, it’s actually quite complicated. You’re right that most people would only seed a max ratio of maybe 2:1 but since you send chunks and each chunk could go to a different person, you end up “facilitating” dozens of people, but only for a fraction of the movie each.

          So does that mean you’re liable for facilitating each person that took a fraction of the movie from you? Or for a total of two “people”?

          The biggest problem, as I see it, is that the way the investigators collect their data, they have no way of knowing what ratio you’re seeding at. You could have configured your client to seed a maximum ratio of 1:1 or you could have configured it to seed a maximum ratio of 100:1 — how would they know?

        • Imagine if book publishers behaved like the Movie/Music cartels, Libraries would have been illegal centuries ago.

        • i don’t know when you last visited a public library, but libraries lend out movie and music DVDs/CDs…


  4. “The process should primarily be aimed at helping reduce the incidence of unauthorised file-sharing of copyright infringing material.” – discussion paper

    I disagree, i think the process should primarily be “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts” – US Constitution

    • I think you forgot the rest of it .. ‘by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.’

      which is .. um .. ip

      • I didnt forget that government grants copyright holders exclusive rights, i deliberately omitted it because its so obvious.

        I did mention “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts” because the supposed benefits to _society_ of copyright is so neglected.

      • Of Course if it was truly about protecting the artist copyright wouldn’t be allowed to be held by corporations, for what seems to be an indifferent period of time now thanks to Disney.

  5. I don’t understand. Where has this come from? Why is the government so openly legislating for corporate interests? Who are they supposed to represent? What’s really going on behind closed doors? This is an absolute farce.

    • It comes from our American masters matt, the same people bankrolling the case against iinet.

      The American movie and music industry has more say in Australian politics than Australians do.

      • And that right there is the most disgusting thing out of the whole ordeal, the MAFIAA (a foreign US entity) getting more of a say on Australian Copyright Law than the larger majority of smaller producers of copyright material and the Australian public.

        I don’t know about everyone else but I think it’s high time the MAFIAA got shown the door and sent back to the US, because I for one (an Australian at that) certainly do not want the goods they peddle here at the cost of the freedoms [the very same ones earned off the blood of previous generations through war and other such disasters] our government today takes for granted.

  6. I had to laugh at the comment of ‘streamlining’ their legal processes to sue people, when was the last time you heard of them streamlining their distribution processes to get their content to people? I’ll answer that for you: NEVER.

    Every single aspect of their distribution system is aimed at harming the customer (not to mention environment) – why can’t we simply log on to, punch in our CC and stream movies at the same time as anyone else on the planet, for a reasonable price? You can deliver movies to every corner of the globe for a few cents each via existing content delivery networks, why are we forced to pay for transportation, physical item production (box, cd), markups the studios want plus markups the retailer want and then endure other issues like DRM that often screws with paying customers, people in other countries watching it first, stupid ‘don’t copy this!’ warnings, unskippable menus…..

    The last game I purchased was Dues Ex Human Revolution – I paid a decent amount for it, – I preloaded it and was ready to play it on the release date, awesome, been waiting for this for years!!………….

    ….. but wait, it’s not midnight yet in Australia and I hear people in Europe have already got half way through the game, with US folk starting?? For no good reason they delayed the release 24hrs in Australia, what the hell man is my $$ worth less than their $$? I ended up signing in with a US proxy and immediately launching it but still it was dumb, I bought all Dues Ex games to date as I figured they were certainly worth my money, and I should reward the developers – but now I think I’ll pirate Dues Ex 4 if it ever comes out, that seriously, seriously annoyed me.

    Anyway back to my original point, the current business model revolves around practices that were efficient a decade ago, it is probably the epitome of inefficiency now. You’ll find people who pirate probably pay more for HDD’s, seedboxes, internet connections, usenet subscription – the studios just need to convince them to give them their money instead.

    I know some people prefer to buy the ‘real thing’ – and there is no reason to deny them that choice, but this should not be forced upon people who see it as wasteful and don’t wish to pay the price that comes with such wasteful tactics.

    • Sounds like Mark Pesce’s talk on Hypereconomics.

      A world where the consumer interacts directly with the producer, bypassing the inefficient middle man. A world where the consumer can customise their end product, rather than always being feed the same as everyone else.

    • let me get this right…

      you are now entitled to pirate Deus Ex 4 just because you had to wait 24hrs longer than the rest of the globe for the latest release????

      oh my, oh my… we’re turning into a nation of deluded, self-righteous sooks.

      • I never said I was entitled to do it, I just said even when I gave them my money for the game and purchased it legally they pissed in my cornflakes. It makes you wonder why piracy isn’t even more rampant.

  7. Here is another example of that very game I purchased and was annoyed they would not let me play it until several hours after people in other countries could:

    Basically someone uploaded a cracked version of the game which killed itself after the first level and asked them to take part in a survey.

    Some of the findings include most of them being more than happy to pay even upwards of $40aud for it and almost 25% of them suggesting they had already pre-ordered it, and 25% suggested they will buy it later – this is 50%! This is no small number.

    This is why you can’t trust the ‘piracy loss’ statistics. I would argue that dumb business practices contribute to more ‘lost sales’ then piracy ever will or has.

    Also, I can’t help but notice they mention the ‘full price’ was $28?? what the flap, I paid like $50 for it and even then it was only after using various coupons to get it down from the $79 it was originally going to charge – again, why am I raped just because I live in Australia?

  8. Well I say go ahead Robert McClelland just cozy up with your big business mates… but here’s a little heads up Robert. If you’re going to go ahead with this I’d be telling your other ALP mates that they should shelve the NBN right now. Why because without legal (due to big business want to gouge australian consumers) creating legal avenues for distribution of content most people will suddenly realize they can get by with far less bandwidth.

    Secondly one can only hope that consumers will now take real action against these big money grabbing businesses and organize boycotts that last for months on end.

    I’d be suggesting sit ins at every cinema and large crowds that prevent actual costumers from attending … I’d say it would take about a month of this sort of activity to bring most of them to their financial knees.

    Thirdly I think the public should begin making a documentary about Robert McClelland and his family, I’d suggest that they should be filmed whenever in public at all times, I can just hear Robert McClelland saying “but my family isn’t part of this”, well Robert that’s just to bad isn’t it, it’s only the juicy bits that will get to air. Oh and just because you leave government (no doubt you’ll be out at the next election) doesn’t mean that the documentary is over…. I think say a 20 year constant 24 hour a day approach would make your and your families lives just pure hell but it’d still be good for us.

    Anyway a sad day indeed.

    Oh and I’ll be contacting every green senator to vote against this and Adam in the lower house, along with Oakshott and Windsor…. I reckon that if enough people do that Robert McClelland can kiss his little backroom deal goodbye.

    Personally I believe that Politicians should be wired with video and sound 24 hours a day without the right to privacy whilst they govern. Why because we all know that these individuals make statements and deals when they aren’t being watched very very closely.

    That’s my rant

  9. I wonder if all this will be canned the minute an MP gets an extortion letter for something their children have downloaded?

  10. Perhaps if they sold it here in digital form it would be easier to commercialize it?

  11. I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS SITTING DOWN…I’m…I’m going to write a choice letter to my MP.

    That’s proven very effective in the past….yeah!

  12. We the people don’t want to ‘steal’, otherwise KMART would have uzis at the door instead of some bored chick.
    Give the people an easy way to download everything at a reasonable price ($5 new release , $1 for back catalouge), and most of piracy will go away overnight.
    Making war against the consumer of your product is not a long term business strategy.
    Unfortunatley, most of the MPAxx’s of the world seem to be run by retards.

  13. i always thought piracy was a “for profit” business model. when all these lawsuits start, the national debt level will jump 200% just from people having to borrow, from anyone who’ll help

    out of an $75000 a year paycheck, 16000-18000 goes to taxes, 18000+ goes to rent, 4000+ goes to fuel and vehicle maintenance, rego and insurance, 10000 to food, 3000 goes to power, 1500 goes to water, 2500 goes to telecommunications, and 10000 to bank and credit card loans. out of the roughly 5000 left( about 80 a week), we are supposed to buy dvds at 30+ a pop, movie tickets somewhere between 8 and 20 a ticket per person, and pay for useless repeating cable tv? where do the governments think our money goes? its all taxed. so they get more than their 38%. and then because of emergencies and bank lending practices, all that extra a year goes nowhere. If i lose my job and go on to 35000 a year, then no money gets spent on “extras”. hell no money gets spent on travel, car sells, all electronics in the house is switched off, so in essence, no entertainment is available. Hell, if i was a “pirate” at least i would have no debt, and be able to eat out every night..

    Come on big business, grow a brain and face up to the fact that you have to change your business model to match the current economic facilities of a “average joe” australian. If these lawsuits truly start and actually stop people from downloading films and tv, then the $42 billion NBN will be unnecessary as almost all traffic in the country will stop.

    the bucks gotta stop somewhere


  14. I had to laugh at the comment of ‘streamlining’ their legal processes to sue people, when was the last time you heard of them streamlining their distribution processes to get their content to people? I’ll answer that for you: NEVER. “Sorry, Netflix is not available in your country” “Sorry, currently our video library can only be watched from within the United States”

  15. Could the safe harbour provisions for ISPs apply to someone seeding torrents?

    From the paper ‘To achieve this, an alternative term (‘service provider’) would replace ‘carriage service provider’ for the purposes of the safe harbour scheme. The new term would be defined to cover internet service providers and operators of online services, irrespective of whether they provide a carriage service to the public.’

    So running a torrent client provides an online service after all…

    • I thought about that too, and the comments in the PDF about supplying a service to the public. If I open my wireless to the public, do I then get safe harbour protection? However what records would I be forced to keep?

  16. So the government won’t do anything to prosecute the Catholic cult for covering up for pedophiles and child rapists but will bend over backwards for Hollywood which itself was founded to avoid paying Edison’s patents on motion pictures.

  17. What Argument Could an Infringer Possibly Have?

    How could anybody argue against somebody being prosecuted or sued, for knowingly being involved in stealing and making available a copy of a movie online? And who would be stupid enough to not only defend this practice, but also state it’s their given right to do so?

    To file share, you must download and install file sharing software (a premeditation and preparation of a crime) and then knowingly search for a title you are interested in “getting for free”, or as the law calls it, stealing.

    Then you must partake in the swarm of the torrent that has the “free” (read : stolen) copy and then start to download this copy while being in full knowledge of teh fact that that your participation in this torrent is not only illegal as theft, but is also facilitating the parallel theft by others, while sharing this information stream. This is the same as being in a mob that goes on a crime spree and yet some on this forum believe this is just fine and dandy while others call it a constitutional right of expression and freedom? Um, I’m struggling to fathom any reason stealing is justified other than being hungry and stealing food.

    If I have to sit through those damn “Piracy Is A Crime” segments before every single damn movie I purchase and watch, then somebody should at least be pursued otherwise we’re relying on an honesty box system of “please don’t steal”, which by all standards does not work.

    If you get caught, and receive one of these tickets in the post, you deserve it.

    • Theft implies someone has something and you take it, leaving them without that something – copyright infringement is not theft, it is just that – copyright infringement.

      On the other hand, in the case of CD’s – the 85%-95% of the sale that will end up being splashed around to various suits and never see the artists is MUCH closer to theft than copyright infringement – the suits have taken far more than their fair share for something they didn’t put anywhere near as much efort in to create, furthermore as a result the person who should have got the largest share of the money goes without.

      There is no ‘copying’ of money going on there, it’s outright ‘taking’ – I would consider that theft before I considered copyright infringement theft.

      ‘making available’ is also jumping to conclusions, what if the movie you are downloading has no peers and only seeds? what if you cap your upload speed at 1kb/s so it will never even upload 1 chunk successfully? Even if you don’t artificially cap your ability to upload remember these companies are monitoring public trackers – this combined with our slow upload speeds and most ISP’s counting uploads to peoples download limits – it won’t surprise me if most Australians don’t even seed 1:1 let alone 20:1 or whatever other stupid claims various lawsuits have.

      Also, what about Usenet? There is no uploads going on there…

      Again, copyright infringement is wrong – but comparing it to going on a crime spree is just ridiculous, using the word ‘theft’ is wrong also – call it what it is, ‘copyright infringement’

      You don’t need to take my word for it:

      Copyright holders frequently refer to copyright infringement as “theft”. In law copyright infringement does not refer to actual theft, but an instance where a person exercises one of the exclusive rights of the copyright holder without authorization.[5] Courts have distinguished between copyright infringement and theft, holding, for instance, in the United States Supreme Court case Dowling v. United States (1985) that bootleg phonorecords did not constitute stolen property and that “…interference with copyright does not easily equate with theft, conversion, or fraud. The Copyright Act even employs a separate term of art to define one who misappropriates a copyright… ‘an infringer of the copyright.'” In the case of copyright infringement the province guaranteed to the copyright holder by copyright law is invaded, i.e. exclusive rights, but no control, physical or otherwise, is taken over the copyright, nor is the copyright holder wholly deprived of using the copyrighted work or exercising the exclusive rights held.[6]

    • Dylan, lets say you get a letter today from a copyright holder saying pay us $5000 or see you in court. Now lets say you are innocent, a subject of mistaken identity.
      – Perhaps the ISP record was wrong
      – Perhaps someone cracked you wifi
      – Perhaps you had a dynamic IP that was used by someone else
      – Perhaps your visiting nephew downloaded something and you were unaware.

      What are you going to do? You need to hire at least a lawyer to prep your defence, a barrister to argue in front of the magistrate, you need to take a few days off work, or will you just pay up?
      Do we really want to go down the path of the Americans?

  18. Put a limit on copyright, there are too many people who don’t do real work and thus inflate the economy. Too many movies, too much music, too many books that people have produced in order to get rich without real work. By limiting copyright for 2 years or so, we’ll have no need for thugs to prop up the price these bohemians want to charge for their work. Then tell them to get real work.

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