No comment: Greens, Coalition on Internet piracy


news Senior figures from the Opposition and the Greens have declined to respond to repeated requests for comment over a period of several weeks on recent Federal Government moves to firm up its policy on Internet content piracy, as the future of Australia’s response to the issue continues to be in doubt.

Over the past few months, a number of events have taken place which appear to be signalling the potential for a long-term resolution to the issue of Internet piracy in Australia. For starters, iiNet’s long-running court battle with the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft has finally hit the High Court and the Federal Department of the Attorney-General has kicked off talks between the ISP industry and content holders on a joint industry approach to the issue.

Amidst these moves, a new player — Movie Rights Group — has arisen and is planning to target thousands of Australians who have allegedly downloaded its clients’ films, using a legal process which both the ISP and content industries appear to approve of, and which the Government has proposed strengthening.

Despite the recent moves, however, the Opposition and the Greens have ignored requests for comment on the issue.

On 25 October Delimiter approached the offices of Shadow Attorney-General George Brandis and Greens Communications Spokesperson Scott Ludlam for a response to the issues — seeking to clarify what the policies of the two organisations are on online copyright infringement.

Ludlam’s office signalled he was the right spokesperson on the matter, but did not respond with a comment, despite repeated requests over several weeks. The office of Senator Brandis noted the approach but has not responded.

The responses are not dissimilar from the Government’s own approach to the issue.

Although the Attorney-General’s Department is holding talks between the content and ISP industries on the matter, the talks are being held behind closed doors, with the department having refrained from giving out any detailed information so far on what has been discussed. In late October, Attorney-General Robert McLelland declined and deflected a number of core questions regarding the Government’s own policy on online copyright infringement.

The only party to have commented publicly on the issue of Internet piracy in any depth is the Australian leg of the Pirate Party, which has been successful electorally in Europe but holds no parliamentary office in Australia. “We have been highly critical of the process by which the Attorney General’s Department has conducted its consultations, which have largely excluded civil society and consumers,” said the party’s then-president, Rodney Serkowski, in mid-October. “The most important stakeholders have not been able to participate.”

The Attorney-General’s Department has previously declined a Freedom of Information request for the minutes of the last known meeting it hosted between the ISP and content industries on 23 September, stating no such document existed. For this reason, a new Freedom of Information request has been filed with the Department, seeking the following documents:

  • A list of all attendees at the meeting
  • Personal notes of any and all attendees at the meeting from any government agency
  • Any and all email correspondence related to the calling and conduct of the meeting
  • Any correspondence between the office of the Secretary of the Department and the Office of the Attorney-General discussing the meeting after it was held.

It appears that Internet piracy is a taboo issue in Australian politics — a subject which nobody wants to go near for fear of it tainting them. I am surprised that we have been unable to get the office of Scott Ludlam — perhaps the most technologically savvy politician operating in Federal Parliament at the moment — to comment on the issue. However, I’m not surprised that George Brandis won’t comment. I’ve been trying to get Brandis to comment on matters in the Attorney-General’s portfolio for years. He never has so far.

However, it’s high time that Australian politicians realised this issue is simply not going to go away. It shouldn’t be discussed behind closed doors and it needs to be dealt with in both a legislative sense (most likely, through the reform of copyright legislation) and a practical sense, in incentivising the content industry to make their content available online in an acceptable form.

Only then will Australians be able to stop feel like criminals in their own homes for consuming content via Internet piracy that simply is not available via any other reasonable means.


  1. “It shouldn’t be discussed behind closed doors and it needs to be dealt with in both a legislative sense (most likely, through the reform of copyright legislation) and a practical sense, in incentivising the content industry to make their content available online in an acceptable form.”

    How do you “incentivise” an industry that has, to date, been entirely, singularly bloody minded on the matter? That has a single view — do what we say, or else.

    That, despite demand, refuses to consider a more open, internet friendly model to allow sensible (paid) access to content, in a timely manner.

    That the closest we have come, thus far, is for yet another change of tactics (who do you think funds all these various rights-holder heavies?) using the good-cop, bad-cop method.

    And there’s the ever present need for the Industry to lump everyone into the “pirate” category, regardless of whether someone is simply catching up on a TV episode, or stamping thousands of CDs or DVDs.

    When you have examples like the iTunes store, and Amazon, which demonstrate a more open, internet friendly model can work, it makes a complete mockery of the Industries claims.

    This has always been about the money.

    When the industry is caught slamming people with huge law-suits, none of which ends up with the artists and performers, repeatedly, you have to ask when does the government hold the rights holders accountable to those whom they purportedly represent?

    The only way we can do that, is to redress copyright law, and to have a sensible discussion. The MRG may well be “new blood” from a rights holder perspective. But they can just as easily be another note in the same tune; bent on insuring complete obedience. That, would be nothing new at all.

  2. I was reading a thread on the Daily Beast (US) site about the latest Family Guy episode screened there a few days ago and which caused quite a stir about whether Brian should have stopped the WTC attacks when he and Stewie travelled back in time to find a bone he had buried 12 years ago. I would be quite interested in seeing the episode to have a better insight into the lively web conversation. Would AFACT have any ideas how they can provide this service for me, given I have spent several hundred bucks on FG box sets over the years? Oh, right, with their ‘protection of rights’ policy I will most likely get to see it on ppv Foxtel in a few months, on ‘free’ tv a few months later, and on a boxed dvd set episode gouged up to about 3000% of the production cost sometime after the replacement WTC garden has been completed, probably around 2020…

    … or, of course, I could…, or maybe not given the spyware that some Afolks use on those ‘pipes’ to sniff out ip addresses to really, really prove how their members are getting ripped off…

    Scott, you out there dude, remember the cool web folks that voted for you? Any ideas? Hmmm…

    George, you out there? Oh thats right, you thought Family Guy was a big eared dude in a flack jacket who appears to be trying to do a George Clooney somewhere south of Kandahar…

    I could try big Rob, our cuddly AG, but he might be concerned about his mates portals…

    Of course, I could just concentrate on important matters like how the top 1% are screwing the rest of us and ignore Family Guy entirely. Theres a win/win…

  3. just remember you idiotic government people who think you are implementing policy to stop piracy……it doesn’t matter what you implement, we (the pirates) have already got a work around and will continue to do what we want. There is NO technology that you can implement that will stop piracy, NONE………so go away and create your dream policy and we shall continue to ignore it…..

  4. Piracy is an act of robbery and/or criminal violence at sea. Not a huge problem on the internet.

    As for copyright infringement, when you treat your own customers with contempt what do you expect to happen to your business. Let take a look at the games industry, there was a large number of lost sales due to copyright infringement mostly because it was just easier than a purchased copies. Steam came a long and now provides a method that is just downright easier than infringing copyright. Likewise with the music industry and iTunes.

    Steam is a success because it work with the most popular platforms for playing those games. iTunes is a success because works on the most popular platform for listening to music. The movie industry is in a bind because of the variety of platforms, but let looks out the two products.
    Purchased Blue ray, or a downloaded HiDef H.264 file video. One I have to use a disc with either my TV or my computer(maybe) or use a dedicate portable Blue ray player, I can’t skip previews or anti-copyright infringement messages I might get some extra features but the main reason for the purchase is the movie. The other I can shift around to any number of media consumption devices, Turn on my smart TV in the bedroom I don’t have to find the disc I can just stream it from the PC in the study, catching a train play it back on my ipad or other tablet devices and no risk of HCDP issue with watching on my laptop and those un-skippable anti copyright infringement message I never see those.
    All things being equal I know which product I would purchase.
    It is possible to do this while preserving copyright restrictions, Amazon do it with ebook by providing tools to view content on a number of popular devices, iTunes is slighting more restrictive but a least you have a good chance the song you buy on your ipod now is going to be usable on your ipad 6 or iphone23 and you can install itunes on PC platforms. Heck windows media player does already have capability for streaming content to other devices, and netfilx does provide the option for use on a number of devices.

    The point is make a product that as easy or easier to use than one obtained via copyright infringement and you will get customers back. People are already paying for these services(private indexing sites) they are just not paying you. Although it does seen to be the model of big business these days to litigate the competition out of existence be it right or wrong(patent law and like) than to compete.

  5. You do not stop piracy by trying to stop piracy. You provide a reasonableservice at a reasonable price.

  6. Silence from a political party could simply mean they have yet to finalise policy. The ALP refused to talk detail on the Carbon Tax until it was finalised in their minds.

    A little smoke, perhaps not much fire here yet.

  7. Let’s spread this form of haggling everywhere. It is cool.

    Consumer: “How much is that car?”
    Salesman: “That luxury sedan is $85,000.00.”
    Consumer: “Bzzzzzzzt, wrong answer! That is far too expensive so I will steal it. If you sold those cars for $5000 we would buy them instead of stealing them. Maybe this will “incentivise” the car industry to make their cars available in an acceptable form”.


    • Umm, that’s a silly analogy. The salesman no longer has a car and loses, let’s say, $60k in wholesale cost of the car.

    • That is theft, not copyright violation. How can people still not understand the difference in this age?

      • Correct. The salesman doesn’t loss his product due to copyright violation, only the potential sale to the person who copied it. So in the end, if someone pirates something they would have otherwise bought it costs the salesman his profit on the product, since there is not material value to it, it is basically the entire sale price.

        • Even then studies have shown that Piracy has led to purchases. I’ve got 100+ DVD movies and a few TV series on DVD. Most of these I originally saw when they came out not at the Cinema or on DVD/TV

          • Agreed. Many years back I used to play a copy of a game to see if it was any good. If it was worth playing I would then buy it. There were a lot of games that were just pure rubbish and no way to tell. Now there are demos, and pretty generous ones now that are usually more than enough to steer my purchases.

            I would like to know the ratio of extra sales to lost sales. But it is one of those things that practically impossible to tell. The figures thrown around by each side are usually unresalistic extremes.

            I feel there is a significant percentage who don’t buy them because they can get them for free anyway. They will only pay money for a game if forced to because they lose access to online play or similar sort of penalties. I know a few people like this. Probably an equal number will purchase the game if they thought it was good, even if they had played it all the way through before purchasing.

            I have quite a large collection of DVDs also. I choose what to buy by reading reviews. I don’t like to watch trailers, too much hype, too many spoilers. I can understand how you could buy a DVD after seeing a pirate. Some movies just unexpected appeal to you when you watch them even if reviews say they are terrible. And visa versa, Independance Day…. Glad I didn’t get the DVD but i wasted money at the movies.

    • “Let’s spread this form of haggling everywhere. It is cool.”

      That is an example of sales haggling, not copyright management.

      An equivalence would be, that I can Buy a CD, in physical form, by hoping the store releases the same time the artist does in the US, or UK. That wasn’t always the case.

      Instead, along comes Amazon, iTunes music store, provides legal content, in a timely manner. Goodnight piracy (it removes the key driver for people to potentially breach copyright). So I can pay a little less, have near instant access and acquire at the same time as release.

      In other words, a legal, paid model with timely access. Exactly what people want.

      All perfectly legal, and a workable outcome for everyone. Ok, so the industry has to share (enormous) profits with Apple, Amazon et-all, but welcome to the internet.

      Meanwhile, the Motion Picture industry maintains a 1940’s style distribution model that doesn’t match current demand patterns.

  8. The internet is still a child,the old school have to die.I am hanging out for the day when I can watch a Top Fuel meet live from the good ole USA,pay a fee no risk with the plastic an enjoy the racing in all its glory.I don’t want to spend time googling where I can find this,I just want to go to the NHRA website,see what’s on and go from there.This is just one example,I don’t want to subscribe, just choose, pay and watch.The potential is limitless,bands,art shows,cat shows,wet t-shirt competitions, just give it to us.Then of course we need the great enabler,NBN.Even the Libs should be able to see their business mates can make a buck out of this.Btw for those interested Top Fuellers now do the quarter mile in under 4 seconds,closest thing mankind have to a matter transmitter.Cheers.

    • under 4 seconds for the 1/4? nu-uh!!!! as a dragracer myself ill tell you why the times have tumbled into the 3 second zone in the NHRA,its because they now race over 1000 ft ,not 1320 (1/4 mile) .this was done to ‘rein-in’ the speeds as they were getting a tad to fast for the majority of the tracks braking areas.cheers

  9. closest thing mankind have to a matter transmitter…………………..on land that is…….

  10. It will be a bright bright day when the world is only populated by people who have grown up with the internet.

  11. With reference to the person who compared stealing a car to copyright infringement…

    The analogy of the stolen car can be a good one, just not in the way you describe.

    If the car was stolen a collection of people lost $85,000 dollars, which would be a combination of profit and cost.

    Let’s make some assumptions. The accuracy of the numbers isn’t that important, but the way it ties together is.

    That 1 million cars sold is the aim of the car manufacturer to average design and tooling costs for production. The breakdown might be $1 billion for design, $3 billion to build the factory and tools and that materials and labour makes up the rest of the cost. The car is provided to the car yard for $60,000 dollars and that the car manufacturer makes $4,000 profit.

    Breaking that down on a per car basis…

    $1,000 for design
    $3,000 for the factory and tools
    $4,000 manufacturers profit
    $52,000 for all costs – Materials, labour, management etc.
    $25,000 for the car dealer

    Let’s bring this back to copyright infringement. Anyone who has invested in a computer and internet connection has the ability to make a perfect copy of that car for free. And they have the ability to modify it to work in any country (to modify a movie to play on any device).

    Is it reasonable to require people to pay $85,000 for that car? I can provide distribution and manufacture myself for effectively nothing, yet content owners insist I have to pay $85,000 or they will use their ability to influence politicians to criminalize me.

    All i want is to pay the $1000 design costs, and I would be willing to pay for a reasonable profit as well.

    The opportunity for the car manufacturer is that now his potential market is much MORE than 1 million cars sold. Assuming that the opportunity to copy the car was offered for $5,000 and that 1 million people would have bought it for $80,000. Surely 10 times that number would now buy a car every bit as good for $5,000? You can make an excellent case that the $5,000 car is better because it can be modified to run in any country (on any device), and is easier to store (I could put 100 blue ray movies on a single hard drive, instead of having to buy a cabinet to store all those physical copies).

    Instead of making 4 billion profits the designer is making 40 billion.

    This is why people say that they are using an out-dated business model.

    People used to buy a car every year or so, now they have the ability to self-manufacture one from a design 20 times a day. This is deeply frightening to the car manufacturer, who wonders how he can get people to continue paying $85,000 for his car?

    The simple fact is that he can’t, without changing the way the internet operates. Even if every byte is watched over by some officer in a highly policed internet under pain of imprisonment, people could still transfer that design in person, by swapping hard drives, or encrypt the design and use virtual private networks.

    The factory, its workers and car salesmen are in a worse position then the designers. They work in an industry that technology is in the process of making irrelevant.

    Another problem I see is that content creators, when they dabble in selling their $1,000 design straight to the public is that they want to get a price closer to the original $85,000 then the $1,000. The customer also wants it to work everywhere, but they limit it to a single type of “road”, making it once again, less attractive. “We tried it and it didn’t work they cry… Protect us from the thieves”

    When content creators go to governments looking for changes in the law they are asking not just for their copyrighted design to be protected, but for their monopoly on inefficient manufacture and distribution to be guaranteed, at the consumers great expense. You need to separate the two, protect their right to gain value from their design, while protecting the right of the consumer to choose their delivery and manufacture method, so to speak.

    This is complicated for the car manufacturer in that the design teams who escape their control can choose to directly market their products to the consumer… and they may not feel that 400% profits ($1,000 to $4,000 profit) is the most competitive…

    Alternately the car manufacturer could design 56 cars for the same price as designing and building one. Assuming they were willing to accept a $12,000 profit and only sold 1 million of each they would make 300% greater profits, and the consumer could get a design for ~ $1,210.

    Do you think that consumers might buy more cars?

    With direct marketing that could lead to incredible possibilities.

    Unfortunately, they are used to factories, big budgets and lawyers. Change is always uncertain.

  12. I was surprised at the reference to Movie Rights Group in this piece. They appear to have taken down their website and disappeared in recent days.

  13. Hoi Renai.
    fair cop.
    Thing is, your request came in at a time when our team was extremely stretched, and given the scale of of the issue i didn’t feel confident to shoot from the hip. Shoulda just emailed you to say so.

    this is a complex and opaque clash of commercial self interest, with old media conglomerates seeking to retain their incumbency in a world which doesn’t need them as much as it used to. amazing how little we hear from the artists and creative people themselves about how they’d like to be paid for their work.


    If the delimiter community have any good policy resources you know of, a reading list wouldn’t hurt at all.

    a couple of us are looking at it. you will get a comment, but not until it’s a properly informed one.


    • No worries, I thought it might have been something like that. I did come down a bit harshly on you guys, and I’m sorry about that. But when no side of politics will touch an issue that constituents are clearly very, very interested in, the media has got to be a bit harsh ;)

      “amazing how little we hear from the artists and creative people themselves about how they’d like to be paid for their work”

      This is pretty much the most insightful thing I’ve heard on this issue for a long time :)

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