Australia is the worst offender in the world when it comes to online piracy and the Federal Government has plans to crack down on the practice.
Although the government is tight-lipped on exactly what measures it will pursue, Attorney-General George Brandis says he is considering “legal incentives” for internet service providers to co-operate with copyright owners to prevent illegal sharing.
That means it could become your internet provider’s legal responsibility to try to prevent you downloading illegally, whereas currently they have no such responsibility. ISPs could then introduce a so-called graduated response scheme, which means repeat offenders could be hit with formal warnings and slower internet speeds.
When Game of Thrones’ fourth season premiered in April, more Australians illegally downloaded the program than any other nationality worldwide. Australia accounted for 11.6 per cent of the piracy and Melbourne was the worst-offending city on the globe, according to TorrentFreak.
Mr Brandis expressed his concern to a senate estimates committee that “the legitimate rights and interests of rights holders and content creators are being compromised”.
Each episode of Game of Thrones season four has attracted about 525,000 viewers for Foxtel, including repeats, but an equal number of people download each episode illegally every week.
The pay TV provider has branded illegal downloaders as “thieves” and made representations to both sides of politics about the issue for several years.
A spokesman for Foxtel, which is half-owned by news.com.au’s parent company News Corp Australia, said the piracy scourge was a “serious problem”.
“It’s important to understand that it undermines the viability of all creative businesses,” he said.
“It’s not just an issue for businesses, it affects the livelihoods of actors, writers, directors, set designers, and everyone else involved in the production of these programs.”
RELATED: Australians named worst Game of Thrones pirates
Consumer group Choice slammed Foxtel this week, telling the ABC that it only had itself to blame for the number of Australians pirating Game of Thrones because its business model was outdated.
“It expects people to pay for a whole range of products when they may want (just) one. You’re getting Real Housewives of every city, rather than just Game of Thrones, which you want,” Choice’s Erin Turner told the ABC.
Foxtel hit back at this claim, saying it fast-tracked the program, offered flexible ways to enjoy it and offered low-cost options such as the special Games of Thrones subscription for $35 a month.
“The bundled model is the one used around the world, including by HBO in the USA. Without it, many channels and programs would become economically unviable. Incidentally, it’s the same model used by publishers around the world who put content behind a pay wall, including Choice itself,” a Foxtel spokesman told news.com.au.
He acknowledged it was the responsibility of content owners to make content available quickly and conveniently.
The government is considering ways to deter illegal downloaders as part of a review of the Copyright Act. Although it is yet to detail specific measures, earlier comments by Senator Brandis reveal the methods under consideration:
● The big stick: Speaking to the Australian Digital Alliance copyright forum in February, Mr Brandis floated the idea of a three-strikes policy or a graduated response scheme. This means customers are warned each time they are caught downloading illegally — and could be fined or disconnected from the internet altogether after three strikes
● Hitting ISPs: One option is to compel internet service provides such as Bigpond or iiNet to issue warnings to its customers. However, a landmark High Court ruling in 2012 found that iiNet was not responsible for its customers’ illegal activities
● Block sites: The government could force ISPs to block offending peer-to-peer file-sharing sites, such as BitTorrent or The Pirate Bay. The problem with this is that savvy internet user can bypass these filters with ease.
“The illegal downloading of Australian films online is a form of theft. I say Australian films, but of course, the illegal downloading of any protected content is a form of theft,” Senator Brandis told the Australian Digital Alliance forum.
“The government will be considering possible mechanisms to provide a legal incentive for an internet service provider to co-operate with copyright owners in preventing infringement on their systems and networks.
“This may include looking carefully at the merits of a scheme whereby ISPs are required to issue graduated warnings to consumers who are using websites to facilitate piracy.”
News.com.au approached the Attorney-General’s Office to comment on this story but a spokesman declined to confirm which measures were being considered.
- The Attorney General in this case George Brandis is not in office lawfully.
- The Copyright Act (1968?? - not stated by news.com.au) is an unlawfully carried out Act and therefore invalid.