Internet Piracy rules won’t work, says Husic


news Labor MP Ed Husic has published a lengthy article arguing new legislation and industry self-regulatory measures pushed by the Government will “do little” to resolve the issue of Internet piracy, arguing the issue is a market problem and needs to be addressed by focusing on bad corporate behaviour instead.

Last month the Federal Parliament passed the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015, legislation which will allow copyright owners to seek a court injunction which would force Internet providers to block websites which infringe their copyright. And the Australian Communications and Media Authority is currently considering an industry code developed by the Communications Alliance which would eventually see the details of alleged Internet pirates handed over to the content owners to pursue legal action against them.

A number of individual Labor MPs, including Husic, have spoken out against some of the measures, but broadly Labor has been supportive of the Government’s action on the issue, voting the legislation through Parliament and standing on the sidelines during the debate over the new industry code.

However, in a lengthy article for the new site The Labor Herald, Husic said the new measures would not have the intended effect of stopping Internet piracy.

“Since the Abbott Government’s been elected it’s been, to draw on a well-known phrase: tough on piracy – but not tough on the causes of piracy,” the Labor MP wrote “… legislative, bureaucratic hammers will do little to reform a market problem.”

Husic said it was access to content — in a convenient manner and at the right price — that would stop piracy.

“… as much as we should look at this issue through the eyes of a sector that is losing a lot of money through piracy, we should also look through the eyes of consumers who doing the right thing – properly buying content but being ripped off in the process,” he wrote. “Today’s Australians know the tyranny of distance has been virtually removed because of the internet.”

“Theoretically, the costs of physically getting a product to Australia, for example a DVD, have been eliminated – therefore the prices should drop considerably. But this hasn’t happened because many rights holders won’t pass these savings on to customers or free up the way consumers get content. As a result, some consumers turn to websites offering free, pirated material.”

Husic said it had been shown “repeatedly” that Australian consumers were willing to pay for products offered at a reasonable price and in a timely fashion, citing examples such as the highly popular streaming platforms Spotify and Netflix.

“Until this government and business gets tough on the causes of piracy it’s hard to see a long term, sustained reduction in piracy … If blue-collar workers can change, why can’t some of our big corporations do the same?” he asked.

Ed Husic might seem like a bit of a lone voice espousing these ideas within Labor, but we shouldn’t underestimate how much clout the MP has. He’s Shadow Parliamentary Secretary to the Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen, holds the safe Labor seat of Chifley in Western Sydney, and has been influential in getting Labor to support a number of digital economy initiatives, including the IT price hike inquiry and Labor’s recent gradual support and understanding of the importance of the startup sector as an engine room for creating new economic activity and next-generation jobs.

Plus, Husic has a strong background in the union movement, having served as National President and Divisional Secretary level in the Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union. And he’s also been a Whip when Labor was in Government.

You can bet that where Husic is leading on this issue, there would be a substantial number of other Labor figures who would be saying the same thing behind the scenes, but are waiting until these kinds of issues become a little bit more mainstream before they become comfortable talking about them in public. This is the way Labor can often work — it will let single MPs discuss outlier issues publicly. Gradually that MP will attract a group of supporters, and then gradually more people start coming out of the woodwork to support an issue, as they work out how to be safe politically while discussing it.

As frustrated as many are in the technology community with Labor on tech-related issues right now (think data retention, for example), the fact that influential MPs like Husic are still talking about these issues publicly is at the very least a positive sign that the party is open to change. Slow, gradual, deliberate, frustrating change, yes. But change nonetheless.

Image credit: Parliamentary Broadcasting


  1. The cynical side of me is saying “Too little too late Mr Husic” since Labor has pretty much been a part of said legislation

    But having seen what this man has done for our area and the fact he is still one of the few politicians you can count on one hand that is completely “connected” to the tech world and it’s instances like these is why when I would rather vote an Independent or Green I have been constantly voting Labor for our area.

    This country needs more pollies like Husic and Ludlam!

    • I fully agree. Ed and Scott are two of the few politicians who I can actually admire. Conroy is close, but not quite there (that “rottweiler” streak he gets sometimes can be a bit off-putting). The rest…? Meh

  2. It’s annoying and depressing that in this day and age there are still so few politicians who just get it. To most of us its simple…make it easier to buy legitimately than pirate and people will go the easier option. Next the abbot goverment will say they are going to tackle drink driving by making it illegal to use public transport when drunk and increase tax on taxies to pay for more traffic police.

  3. As much as I used to respect Husic for his work in bringing the IT Price Inquiry into fruition, I feel that his “outrage” on the site blocking legislation isn’t real, and simply a voter grabbing political ploy. He has done nothing to put pressure on the LNP to actually respond to the IT Price Inquiry recommendations other than to say it needs to be responded to for Labor’s support for site blocking which they passed bipartisanly along with all the other legislation over the last 12 months that continues the war on the internet (stripping in online freedoms under the guise of national security).

    Husic has a boss that is afraid to look weak on natsec in an electorate that is increasingly bigoted, racist and xenophobic and play to Abott’s tune that Muslims are inherently evil. The Reclaim Australia movement is evidence of this and it’s size and organisation can solely be attributed to Abbott’s passive and indirect support.

    Labor have lost their way, and until they actually start looking at admitting they have dropped the ball on online / tech issues in blindly supporting the LNP I don’t believe anything any of them say when it contradicts the party line.

    Teri Butler, Tim Watts, Anthony Albenese and Melissa Parkes also expressed “concern” but they need to do more than that otherwise it’s just lip service.

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