Surprise! Coalition re-kindles anti-piracy talks



news The new Coalition Federal Government has reportedly signalled plans to restart long-running talks between the telecommunications and content industries to deal with the issue of Internet piracy, despite the fact that a previous round of talks between the two sides under the previous Labor administration proved pointless.

The Australian newspaper reported this morning (we recommend you click here for the full article) that “the Attorney-General’s Department has sent letters to the nation’s top telcos and content creators seeking their participation in a series of industry roundtables to resolve the online piracy issue as a matter of urgency”.

It is not yet clear precisely what new Attorney-General George Brandis or the Attorney-General’s Department is seeking from the talks. as neither has issued a statement on the issue. Delimiter has filed a Freedom of Information request this morning with the department seeking the text of any letters sent by Brandis or the Department to telcos on the issue since Brandis took office. In addition, comment is being sought from Brandis on the issue.

The last round of talks between ISPs and the content industry were also hosted by the Attorney-General’s Department, with departmental secretary Roger Wilkins believed to be taking a personal hand in an issue the bureaucrat has seen as important for the previous Labor Government. The talks were held between late 2011 and mid-2012, but ultimately broke down due to an inability of the two sides to come to any form of agreement.

In a fiery blog post published around the last known round of the anti-piracy talks in June 2012, iiNet regulatory chief Steve Dalby was highly critical of the content industry, including the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT), which iiNet that year won a high-profile High Court victory against in the area.

“It’s quite clear that finding a new business model for sharing content is a key issue facing the entertainment industry, particularly in light of iiTrial. Copyright legislation needs to change to serve the changing needs of both the rights holders and the expectations of online consumers,” wrote Dalby. “Try telling that to an organisation like the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT) – you might as well be talking to a brick wall.”

Dalby accused the US entertainment industry of “ignoring” consumer demand for the ability to access content in their preferred content, at a time that was convenient, for “so many years now” that multiple alternatives had been designed, built, adopted and thoroughly commoditised, becoming mainstream in the process.

“The upcoming Attorney General’s Department forum to discuss online copyright issues will involve rights holders, ISPs, government and consumer representatives,” the iiNet executive wrote. “I don’t need a crystal ball to tell you that the likely conclusion will be negligible change; as has been the situation since the 2005 Australia – US free trade agreement was signed. Little, if anything at all, is to be gained by engaging with rights holders for a commercial solution.”

The previous round of talks were also infamous due to the fact that initially, the Attorney-General’s Department denied requests by consumer organisations to attend the closed door meetings.

In documents released in December 2011 under Freedom of Information laws to the Pirate Party Australia, the Attorney-General’s Department revealed a representative of several public interest groups — the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) and the Internet Society of Australia (ISOC) had requested to attend one of the meetings and been denied.

Following community outcry, the department did eventually invite the nation’s leading telecommunications consumer groups to participate in the latest round of the closed door talks. However, the Attorney-General’s Department has consistently attempted to stop the Australian public from determining precisely what was being discussed at the closed door talks, denying or severely redacting Freedom of Information requests for their content.

The content industry has been open about the fact that it is seeking legislative change to deal with the issue of Internet piracy.

AFACT managing director Neil Gane said in their judgement in the iiNet case, the High Court judges had “unanimously recognised that legislative change was required to address the widespread copyright infringements via peer to peer technology in Australia”. “Both judgements in this case recognise that copyright law is no longer equipped to deal with the rate of technological change we have seen since the law of authorisation was last tested,” said Gane. “They both point to the need for legislation to protect copyright owners against P2P infringements.

“The Judges recognise the significant rate of copyright infringement online and point to the fact that over half the usage of iiNet’s internet service by its customers (measured by volume) was represented by Bit Torrent file sharing which was known to be used for infringing activities,” Gane added. “Now that we have taken this issue to the highest court in the land, it is time for Government to act.”

News of the rejuvenated talks comes as Australia has recently dramatically extended its lead over other countries when it comes to the levels of residents pirating popular US television shows, according to new statistics released earlier this month regarding the release of US TV show Breaking Bad by TorrentFreak, with the limited availability of such content in Australia believed to be driving the trend.

In Opposition, Brandis had declined to detail the Coalition’s policy on online copyright infringement or to speak about the area in detail.


    • Indeed, I am so flabbergasted I am currently downloading a smartphone video of George (weddings, parties, anything… as long as the taxpayers pay for it, baby) Brand-is (copyrighted by me) dancing up a storm before he bans it!

      Stupid thing is, he will probably be on the hotphone to his NSA and DoJ yankee buddies to trace it, because some dumb young liberal fascistboi will read this… and actually think its real…

      Welcome to the monkdome baby, cold rains are coming in over us…

  1. Copyright Infringement a priority – not budget priority.

    Why are you lot are shocked?

    We expected bullshit like this for ages, following UK model, are we not?

  2. Surprised? There are lobbyists for whom their entire career is dedicated to getting this crap sat in front of government on a endless basis.

    There is a lot of money tied up in the copyright system, so much so that this will continue on, for a very long time.

  3. The industry doesnt want to recognise that they are part of the problem, and need to be part of the solution as well, they just want thigns to stay the same. Take Game of Thrones for example, arguably the poster child for the whole problem.

    To watch it in Australia, you need to spend a minimum of around $60 per month – basic Foxtel package plus Showtime. There’s TWO paywalls already. As I dont have the necessary package, I cant remember if the episodes are fast tracked or not, but even a delay of 24 hours is enough for the episode to be spoiled. And thats also part of the problem. You cant avoid the social commentary about the latest episode of those wildly popular shows.

    To the credit of HBO, they gave the option of buying the whole season on iTunes, and getting access to the episodes near immediately. But that gave way to yet another example of why people pirate – pretty much the first thing Foxtel did was tie up that option for future years. So no iTunes option next year.

    And they wonder why people pirate…

    The upshot of all this to me is that people have gotten into the habit of watching what they want when its most convenient. Even then they plan shows properly (eg SHIELD), people dont want to be locked into watching the show at 8:30 Wednesday, and have gotten used to downloading it and watching it when THEY want.

    The industry cant put the genie back into the bottle, and it only costs them money and customers when they try. They close one option, another pops up overnight. Its inevitable, and its something thats happened forever.

    If that means the death of their model, then it will become just another victim to advances in technology. Just like the horse and buggy, or the telegraph.

    • Too much money to be made, for the model to die. It will go on. Even if it means lobbying successive governments, into oblivion. The old models will remain.

      Whilst the copyright system continues to allow for (and indeed favour) wealth generation over artist remuneration, nothing will fundamentally change – just a few different deck chairs in different positions.

      • What gets me is that the fundamental issue has been there for a long long time. Before TV came along and we had entertainment in the home, people went out to the cinema or drive-in. And guess what? Some people tried to avoid paying to see a show back then as well. Its nothing new.

        Go to the drive-in, people would sneak through a hole in the fence, or be hidden in the back seat or boot to avoid the cost. Or at the cinema, one kid would distract the usher while the rest snuck in behind their back.

        Before movies came along, it was little different. An article I like to link gives a pretty good telling of how copyright laws slowed England down, and let Germany transform itself from a rural backwater country to an industrial power in a matter of years. – well worth reading.

        Basically because in Germany they made the cost so cheap to the end user that the common person had access to what was previously limited to the rich gentry. The common printing press revolutionised the industrial revolution era.

        A bit of technology they couldnt stop changed the copyright world forever. Sounds familiar…

        I’m not saying copyright piracy is right or wrong, thats not for me to decide, but wanting content cheap or for free is certainly not something new.

  4. How about instead of the stick we look at the carrot, and have a review on the availability of digital content in the US FTA, rather than just copy right laws. Piracy is already illegal, whilst you can up the punishment, you can’t make it more illegal.

  5. Who owns lots and lots content?
    Who used considerable media resources to fight the NBN and get a Liberal Govt elected.

    Join the dots. It’s time to pay the piper.

    • People will shout “conspiracy theory”, but that’s just how they keep us all in line, you ridicule and silence the dissenting voices that don’t agree with the common narrative.

  6. Is it just me or does the phrase “Copyright Theft” imply a company stealing the content creators copy right, so that only it can copy the content, and that the original creator is left with no legal rights.

    • Yes, calling copyright infringement ‘theft’ is completely incorrect. As a legal term, ‘theft’ or ‘stealing’ requires the physical deprivation of property. If one party makes a copy of another party’s intellectual property, that doesn’t count as theft, as the second party still has their copy of the property. So that organisations name is technically wrong.

      The legal term for the act making an unauthorised copy of a copyrighted work is ‘copyright infringement’.

      I think content creators want to be able to call it theft because that’s the ‘vibe’ they feel of copyright infringement, but it’s a completely incorrect use of the term. It’s really just an appeal to emotion to make it sound worse.

  7. Also…

    Anyone asked them about internet filtering…?

    Again I say it, they are politicians, just like the last lot, but with different branding and different ‘sponsors’…


    • Odds?

      We all know it’s not a mater of “If”, it’s a mater of “When”…

  8. These people are the real Luddites: attacking the technology to protect their economic interests.

  9. You wouldn’t steal a car! *skip* *function not available* You wouldn’t steal a bag! *top menu* *function not available* You wouldn’t steal a *smash smash smash*

  10. I think things are slowly getting better. Perhaps they aren’t up to where they could be, but they are a lot better than they were a few years ago.

    I can follow shows on free to air that are very recent (hours between US showing & here) & tape them if I want to watch them at a different time. We also have more providers entering the market for digital distribution (i.e. Quickflix). TV stations are now offering ‘catch up’ episodes online for free. Movies also seem to be landing on dvd/blu-ray faster (Pacific Rim comes out in a few weeks & that wasn’t in cinemas too long ago) & we are seeing things like Ultraviolet emerge.

    For me at the end of the day you vote with your feet. If content you want is there legally & an acceptable manner then pay. The more people do this the more alternate methods should grow.

    • The problem is, when you get movies/shows where things DONT go so naturally, it creates a culture of downloading that is very hard to undo.

      Movies can be weeks behind here versus the USA, and people dont want to wait, so download. Likewise, the obstacles put in front of seeing the most recent episode of most shows results in the same thing.

      Again, Game of Thrones is the poster child, for the reasons listed above. Its simply expensive to watch the show, and there’s no getting around that. So you either ignore the show (like I have) or download it. You miss a modern day classic because pay TV got to it first, and locked it away in its Rapunzel tower. Then put a second lock on to make sure.

      Movies are no different. Monsters University comes out today in the USA for example, but November 13th here. That sort of 3 week delay is not uncommon. And because the culture these delays create are so easy to tap into, its very hard to break down. Using a big stick isnt the answer.

    • That’s also breaking the law in most cases. A lot of the US companies specifically disallow signing up from another country, and with the way FTA’s are going, you may even start seeing folks taken to court in their home countries eventually.

  11. No surprise. This is the obvious starting point of the ‘net filtering’ policy that was announced and retracted in hours before the election.

    The big friendly government is only trying to protect us.

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