news National broadband provider iiNet has published a sharp blog post accusing the Federal Government of going down the “wrong path” with respect to its efforts to tackle Internet piracy, with the ISP exhorting its customers to become politically active in speaking to politicians from all parties about the issue.
Before the election, then-Shadow Attorney-General George Brandis refused to confirm whether the Coalition had a policy on online copyright infringement. However, in February this year, the new Attorney-General gave a major speech in which he re-opened the issue of Internet piracy. And in a subsequent interview, the Attorney-General subsequently upped the intensity of his discussion on the issue threatening to introduce legislation to deal with the issue of Internet piracy in Australia unless the ISP and content industries can agree on a voluntary industry code to deal with the issue.
In a Senate Estimates hearing several weeks ago, Brandis confirmed he could not remember having met with consumer organisations with respect to the development of the Government’s new Internet piracy policy, and appeared to state that he viewed the public interest in the matter primarily through the lens of the creative industry.
The news comes as several weeks ago other elements of the content industry also intensified their public pressure on the issue, telling media and marketing site Mumbrella that all options for dealing with Internet piracy were on the table, from court orders to target pirating users, to ‘three strikes’ mechanisms for cutting off the Internet access of alleged infringers and website blocks.
The renewed debate on the issue has come after previous talks on the issue held by the previous Labor Government and involving the ISP and content industries collapsed, with iiNet stating that the content industry was unwilling to budge from its hard-line stance on the issue. Consumer groups were initially explicitly blocked from the talks but eventually allowed in.
In a post on the company’s blog yesterday, iiNet chief regulatory officer Steve Dalby said ridiculed what he said were “recycled claims suggesting Australia is the worst nation in the world for Internet piracy”.
“The Australian Government is readying legislation, if news reports are to be believed, which would require ISPs such as iiNet to send infringement notices to our customers while, at the same time, blocking certain websites which provide access for customers to download and share unauthorised content,” he wrote. “We believe the Government is heading down the wrong path if they’re serious about protecting copyright.”
Dalby wrote that iiNet did not condone Internet piracy in any way, shape of form. However, he noted that the various proposals put forward by the content industry for stopping Internet piracy — from infringement notices issued to customers, to blocking access to websites with BitTorrent links — had broadly been ineffective. The actual solution to the issue, the executive wrote, was a commercial one.
“We think that content should be made available to Australians at a fair price and at the same time as it is available elsewhere. The Lego Movie for example, was released two months after it opened to rave reviews in the USA. Village Roadshow (The Lego Movie’s local distributors) even came out a month before its local release and complained of piracy, while probably not even looking at why it was being pirated,” he wrote.
“And that’s the fundamental difference between iiNet and the rights holders. They want to tackle how customers are pirating content. We want them to look at why, and then move forward, addressing the cause, not the symptom.”
Dalby exhorted Australians to make their voice known on the issue. “Write to those who are positions of power and let them know what you think,” he said. “You can start by contacting Attorney-General George Brandis and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull. You can also send your thoughts to politicians engaged in the issue such as Shadow Communications Minister Jason Clare and Greens Senator Scott Ludlam.”
“In your correspondence – point to 2013’s Parliamentary IT Pricing Review – and ask the government to tackle the known issues such as higher prices and lengthy delays for Australians.”
I suspect most Australians will find it hard to disagree with Dalby that the solution to the Internet piracy issue needs to be a commercial one — not a regulatory one. Pretty much all attempts to regulate the Internet have failed over the past there decades. I am amused and saddened that the attempts keep coming. Many people, it seems, still don’t understand the depth and importance of the technological revolution which Earth is permanently engaged in now.