Google protecting pirates, says film giant



blog Those of you with an interest in Australia’s digital rights dynamic will remember that back in January, search giant Google delivered a dose of good old-fashioned common sense to the federal Government over the ongoing Internet piracy issue. The company’s submission to Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull is available online in PDF format. It repeats the same message many of us have been trying to tell the content industry for many years:

“We believe there is significant, credible evidence emerging that online piracy is primarily an availability and pricing problem. Google takes many steps to work with copyright owners to protect the rights of copyright owners online. We would encourage the Government to promote new business models and a free marketplace for legal purchasing of content. We would be disappointed if the Government decided to go down the route of overly harsh regulation to combat piracy without considering the evidence from around the world that this would likely be costly for businesses to implement and with little effect.”

In short, Google is saying, if the film and TV industry would implement a system for video content similar to iTunes for music, Steam/Xbox Live/The PlayStation Network for games or Amazon’s Kindle Library for books, then all Australians could get on with the important task of consuming vast amounts of great content and paying for it. Sounds sensible, right? Well, not if you work for a large film or TV giant, apparently.

From the Sydney Morning Herald comes news (we recommend you click here for the full article) that Village Roadshow chief Graham Burke has taken notice of Google’s letter and is decidedly unhappy about it. The newspaper writes:

Mr Burke told Fairfax Media he was “outraged” that Google was seeking to “lecture” the Australian government when it “produced nothing” in this country and paid little tax. He said Google was “lobbying their heads off to protect their narrow business model, with arguments that are spurious”.

Well, your writer does not disagree with Burke’s argument about Google Australia’s tax situation (and, very likely, neither does the Australian Taxation Office), but the rest of what the executive is saying just doesn’t make much sense.

Sure, Google profits when people search the Internet for stuff. That’s kind of what it does. However, Google profits more when people search the Internet for legal things than when they search it for illegal, because then people can advertise legal services around those search results. Google would, in point of fact, love it if there were a bevy of content distribution companies (or even one large one) all selling Game of Thrones downloads online, because then those wanting to sell life-size Tyrion Lannister dolls could advertise their wares alongside on AdSense.

Burke’s comments, in fact, represent just another example of the fact that big entertainment in the film and TV sector still does not understand the commercial opportunity that comes from engaging with the Internet rather than trying to control it. Amazon, Valve and Apple never became giant content distributors by lobbying an Attorney-General. They just launched better business models and started scooping up profits. Now it’s time for the rest of the content industry to follow in their golden footsteps.

If you want more customers, Mr Burke, I suggest you stop yelling at Google and go and fix the problem that is your business. Make better things and distribute them better, and we will all pay you more — or at the very least, the same. Because if there is one thing the past three decades has taught us, it is that technology is marching ahead at a rapid pace. As The Innovator’s Dilemma taught us, you can either get ahead of that curve or fall behind. And only one way leads to future survival.

Image credit: Robert Scoble, Creative Commons


  1. “Burke’s comments, in fact, represent just another example of the fact that big entertainment in the film and TV sector still does not understand the commercial opportunity that comes from engaging with the Internet rather than trying to control it.”

    Burke’s comments re-iterate the long-standing all-or-nothing model of traditional rights ownership — they simply cannot stand to share the wealth. No matter the excuses given, or the blame laid, it can all be traced back to the exact same cause.

    They can either adapt, die – or lobby government to change the rules. Only one has a viable outcome.

  2. *popcorn*
    Songs pirated since joining Spotify – 0
    Books pirated since Amazon Kinds – 0

    Hmm… Please guys take my money, but let’s make it fair for everyone.

    Also Renai, the Innovator’s Dilemma link is a dud.

  3. When I read a movie industry rep said

    “lobbying their heads off to protect their narrow business model, with arguments that are spurious” hypocrisy meter went off the dial, then melted, then exploded

  4. Actually, google stands to make money from businesses advertising their movies available for download. The more platforms that advertise, the more google makes.

  5. What I actually think would happen if there was an Australian Netflix/Hulu/Spotify for TV is that they would find that they would likely earn more money for providing less content. I know that for my Spotify Premium account I generally listen to the same bands. For my $12 a month, if I had have bought each album of the few bands I listen to, I probably would have owned the collection for about half the price that I have paid for my spotify subscription over the last couple of years.

    I am sure that they would notice a similar trend with viewers of streaming shows, where people have favorite TV shows that they watch often (Personally a sucker for Futurama).

    In addition to streaming of shows, my steam collection currently contains ~450 games. Of these games I have played less than a third… The reason for this is that I can’t help myself, when a game is on sale on steam, if I am even remotely interested in it, I will generally grab it. I am sure that with a similar arrangement for TV shows/Movies I would do the exact same thing (Hell I already do with DVDs/Blu-rays).

    I think that ultimately what it comes down to is that the people who are complaining about piracy are generally the middle men, and the reason they do not want to look to improve their business model is fear of killing the golden goose by having the generators of content find out that the middle men are not as required as what they try to make out they are.

    It is also kind of ironic that a man who is the head of a company set up solely to protect vested interests and lobby the government complains about a company… Lobbying the government…

    • What you are saying is that people will actually pay extra for convenience. In other words subscription models can actually add value. These morons don’t seem capable of understanding these things

  6. The genetic fallacy (

    Regardless of the origin of the criticism, the criticism itself is valid – Burke is simply trying to direct attention away from inconvenient facts laid bare by accurate criticism. Discuss the argument, Mr Burke – your response is intellectually dishonest and, frankly, a cheap tactic.

  7. Mr Bourke should watch out more for his company.

    If the Village Roadshows (movie distribution) aren’t the ones to organically grow into some sort of “iMoves/Amamovies”company, the WB/Sony/Paramonts etc, etc, etc (movie producers) of the world might work out they can skip them and fatten their own profit margins….especially with Mr Bourke pricing his company out of the picture (

  8. While it’s popular to be annoyed at certain content providers service (or lack thereof) I will point out that there is far more content out there than you can possibly consume in a lifetime, so rather than pirate why not enjoy the hard work and efforts of those whose terms are more compatible with your expectations?

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