ISP: Secret anti-BitTorrent piracy talks failing


This article was first published on file-sharing news site TorrentFreak under a Creative Commons licence and is re-published here with TorrentFreak’s permission. It was written by TorrentFreak writer Enigmax.

analysis As part of their never-ending quest to reduce copyright infringement major entertainment companies have been engaged in talks with ISPs and representatives from the Australian government. Worryingly, these meetings have been held in secret and all attempts to obtain information are being stonewalled. But now an ISP has revealed that the talks are failing, noting that there is a “massive gap” between the parties.

After their failed attempt at making ISP iiNet responsible for the copyright infringements of its file-sharing customers, it was never likely that the Hollywood studios and their Australian counterparts would give up on the piracy fight. “ISPs hold the key to reducing online movie and TV theft by 72%,” the headline of a now-debunked anti-piracy lobby group report shouted in September 2011.

But the pressure on ISPs had only just begun. Since September a series of meetings have been held between the entertainment companies and Aussie ISPs, all under the watchful eye of the Federal Attorney-General’s Department. The aim: to come to an agreement on what to do about illicit file-sharing.

It won’t come as a surprise to those familiar with the way ACTA was ‘negotiated’ that these meetings have all been held behind closed doors. Incensed by this and the fact that both content creators and Internet users have been locked out, journalist Renay LeMay at tech news site Delimiter has been making Freedom of Information requests to find out what has been going on. He has been stonewalled every step of the way.

Finally last week the Attorney-General’s Department sent LeMay five documents, but disappointingly nearly all of the information contained within had been redacted.

While the documents did reveal the groups and companies in attendance – AFACT, Music Industry Piracy Investigations, the Communications Alliance, Telstra, iiNet and the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy – the names of individuals were redacted along with the meetings’ agendas.

The Attorney General’s senior legal officer Jane Purcell told LeMay that “..disclosure of the documents while the negotiations are still in process, would, in my view, prejudice, hamper and impede those negotiations to an unacceptable degree. That would, in my view, be contrary to the interests of good government — which would, in turn, be contrary to the public interest.”

But after LeMay accused ISP iiNet of compromising its integrity by participating in the closed-door meetings, iiNet chief regulatory officer Steve Dalby gave a general insight into the current state of play.

“The gap between rightsholders and ISPs is massive,” said Dalby. “Just because we meet doesn’t mean that we are skulking around the back corridors of the Attorney-General’s Department clasping sweaty palms with those same opponents. Meeting isn’t agreement. Most, if not all of the discussions over the years have been conducted between the rightsholders and the ISPs. These have been fruitless. The rightsholders want all the benefits of remedial action, but want the ISPs to foot the bill. ISPs don’t want to pay to protect the rights of third parties.”

Noting that “the gap between the parties is considerable and unlikely to close”, Dalby countered claims that something evil might be going on in the meetings. “I understand that it is not very exciting if a bunch of boring businessmen continue to meet and get nowhere – compared to the idea that some super secret cabal is conspiring to turn the goodies to the Dark Side, so that Australian consumers are sold into economic slavery controlled by the faceless henchmen of Hollywood,” he added.

But in any event the people still want transparency and now politicians say they want answers too. Yesterday, Greens Communications spokesperson Scott Ludlam filed an order in the Senate asking the government to disclose what went on during the most recent meeting held in February.

“Even with the best will in the world, simply inviting the intermediaries to come up with something that suits their collective commercial interests is hardly an encouraging recipe for looking after the public interest,” said Ludlam. “I acknowledge that ISPs have done their best to prevent predatory behaviour by rights holders in the past, but there’s no substitute for a diversity of views in a forum such as this.”

And that is the key to success – an open forum. It’s perhaps understandable that the rightsholders and ISPs don’t want their personal arguments heard in public. But by not allowing the people whose habits they hope to change get involved, it leads away from greater cooperation and understanding and towards suspicion and isolation. Piracy reductions definitely won’t be found at the end of that road.

Image credit: Hans Gerwitz, Creative Commons


  1. Good lord, a well written, insightful post that not once demanded someone prove something.

    Please, Renai, encourage and curate more content like this!

    “And that is the key to success – an open forum.”

    Dirty laundry airing tends to keep parties a little more honest in dealings. I think that’s a start. I also believe that many do not really know what is, or isn’t infringement (next person to say “theft” should be chucked into the bin).

    The Law doesn’t help matters as it’s just not kept pace with digital media.

    And of course, few in the media really seem to care, unless RH’s grease the palms of reporters. Perhaps because, in the eyes of many, the Rights Holders lament has become much like Peter and the Wolf, desensitising the general public.

    That Infringement occurs is not under debate; it’s the methods they have employed to maintain the old ways that are a cause for concern.

  2. This news doesn’t surprise me. I mean even if the talks were successful they’d fail eventually. Apparently the last 15 years of the Internet has taught these clowns nothing… I’m still concerned over the secrecy of these meetings though, it could just be the “rightsholders” not wanting to be humiliated publicly of course but I think it’s more likely that they just don’t want to be scrutinised anymore than they have to. Not a very democratic attitude and if you are trying to get laws changed in a democratic society you should be willing to be more open.

  3. I think the headline is a bit misleading. It suggests that the talks were getting somewhere at some point but have now failed or gone backwards. That’s not what I got from Steve Dalbys’ comments at all, more that the talks have never got anywhere and that the most recent talks were the same old thing. In other words, nothing happened (as usual).

  4. Who is this mysterious journalist…Renay LeMay

    Best quote was “now politicians say they want answers too”

  5. I think you’re all reading too much into Steve Dalby’s comments.

    If what Steve says is broadly correct, and the talks are going nowhere, then I would begin to worry that the government will just slap a legislation bandaid on the whole affair.

    This bandaid will no doubt favor the rights holders strongly. ISPs will probably be forced to hand over client records etc.

    Would actually be preferable if the talks were going somewhere and the rights holders get their desires strongly watered down.

  6. I believe Rights Holders/Entertainment Industry definitely need to grow up and realise the fact the only way this will be resolved is to have online content always available. If the Laws were to be tightened further I can guarantee you now almost all ISP’s would be run to ground and sent broke by pressure put on them by Rights Holders and that’s something that the ISP’s cannot afford to fall prey to by them, we as a nation must keep the fight up to the Right Holders and make them understand that tougher Laws is not the answer to solving this issue, but making content always available online is the only answer…

  7. Secondly, this is to Renai LeMay. I want to thank you regarding the Articles you have published here as of late and thru the Whirlpool Broadband Website in relation to the secret anti-BitTorrent closed door talks. I believe Parliament is in recess (on a break) for the next 6 weeks, over the few weeks or so I will be seeking a Appointment (Meeting) with my Local Federal member for Cowper (Coffs Harbour) Luke Hartsuyker, and I will seeking ideas for some kind of Petition for the public for him and encourage many other Federal MP’s to oppose/reject any attempt to bring new Legisation, tougher new laws regarding BitTorrent Piracy.

    I do encourage other Users here to do the same and lobby your Local Federal MP’s in taking the fight up to these so-called Lawmakers (Rights Holders/Entertainment Industry – Similar of what’s currently going on in the USA/All around the world with the ACTA at the moment) make them understand we have the right (Freedom of speech) and we definitely have the right to Internet freedom, not to have it all taken away from us Users.

  8. Sounds like that if legislation is passed forcing RHs to pay all ISP costs, and that indemnifies ISPs in the (certain) even that customers try to sue them for wrongful disconnection… then ISPs will play ball.

    Probably heading the same way as NZ.

  9. Australia will never head the same way as New Zealand, not if I have anything to do with it Richard :).

    As I said, I will be seeking a meeting with my Local Federal MP for Cowper Luke Hartsukyer over the next few weeks or so, and lobby him and other MP’s for fresh ideas in opposing and rejecting any new extortion attempts by AFACT and Rights Holders. We have the right to keep our Internet free and it will always stay that way.

  10. I still do encourage you Richard and all other Users here to do the same and Lobby their Local Federal MP’s for Internet freedom as I will be doing :).

  11. No worries Bradley – I’ve been actively campaigning against market segmentation (region coding) for about 15 years. As far as blatently obvious injustices go – this one is right up there…so I won’t give up that easily!

    I am someone happy to pay $40 for a Gold Class experience – providing the movie is worth seeing – however I am still against Hollywood trying to extort the same prices from everyone else (i.e. people who can’t afford it), or when a movie is a total failure (they should offer discounted pricing for movies that receive flop reviews – all people who have paid money to see it should be allowed to vote on it’s quality and potentially receive a partial refund!).

  12. I absolutely agree with you there Richard. Although I actually find $40 to watch a Gold Class Exeprience Film a bit too much, even if it’s a Movie that runs for 90 minutes it’s a little bit too much in price.

    I reckon $20-30 would be better suited pricing to watch a Gold Class Movie. I bought a Blu-Ray Movie several weeks ago, cost me $40 and the Movie is: Spy Kids 4 – All The Time In The World and it runs for 88 minutes on BD, to me paying $40 is a total rip off and it would of been heaps better selling it for at least $25-30 tops.

    What we are seeing here is AFACT and Movie/Entertainment Industry being greedy at our expense and to them it’s only all about the money and trying to extort almost every Australian ISP for tougher Laws and in the process risking them in going broke and putting them out of business.

    AFACT and the Entertainment Industry have to realise now as I said the only way to have this resolved is have online content always available, and not having ISP’s run to the ground by AFACT and sent broke perminately.

  13. And FAIL these talks should. Piracy will survive no matter what these gangsters do in secret! Goodness and justice will prevail against the corporate dictatorship! Even if they tighten the reigns a bit we will be a thousand steps ahead of them again. Its a pity people who are on our side in this fight do not think along these same consistent lines with regards to other issues in life as well. There is a lot of hypocricy unfortunately in people’s way of thinking. The reality bubble they are in has imprinted some strong scars on their brains unfortunately that they just do not know any other way of being anymore.

  14. It is not just about making content always available, it also has to be at a “reasonable” cost. As someone commenting on slashdot suggested, when apple make the cost of music downloads $1, suddenly music piracy became less of an issue. Bring down the costs of watching online movies to $1 per view (or $5 to buy and keep a local copy) and make it always available, and you will see movie downloads come to a screeching halt. Of course in Australia, it will probably be around $10 per view but then again we are always ripped off down under :(

    • “Of course in Australia, it will probably be around $10 per view but then again we are always ripped off down under :( ”

      This quote is why the whole copyright infringement thing really bugs me in Australia. We do get rorted on price and we don’t get the servicing that other countries enjoy.

      I would bet my left nut if the reasonable cost model of say $1 for a couple of songs or $1 a view (for movies and tv shows) was implemented in Oz alot of this would just go away.

      At the end of the day that won’t happen since the rights holder barons don’t want to change their pricing model in Australia. Obviously the only solution in their eyes is to police it in a draconian fashion and have someone else foot the bill.

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