iiNet CEO: The Copyright Agenda Has Been Hijacked By Studios

David Buckingham is the new CEO of iiNet. His company recently published its submission to the government's copyright consultation process. In this opinion piece he writes about how the internet has completely outpaced the laws meant to safeguard the copyright of content, and wonders why the government has been hijacked by the wild claims of rights holders.

After years of debate, and millions of dollars spent on fruitless court cases, it is clear that copyright legislation has not kept up with enormous changes brought by the Internet. We welcome the review of copyright law and the opportunity to provide input to the Attorney General’s discussion paper, particularly on the subject of online infringement.

Digital distribution of content is embraced where available. Consumers are dipping into their pockets and increasingly buying movies, music, TV shows, ebooks and games. This has then stimulated demand for flat screen TVs, tablets, lightweight net-books, eBook readers and ever-bigger smartphones. These devices allow other economic benefits to flow through to the business sector, as other applications are developed which increase productivity and allow flexible working and mobility.

Digital content is a great driver of sales way beyond the creative sector.

Yet, it is a concern that a raft of misleading claims made by the content industry seems to have gained currency among policy makers and the media. Rather than accept assertions that online piracy threatens almost a million jobs, and other wildly inflated figures around economic impact, Australia should be looking at the evidence.

Level heads must also prevail when describing the millions of Australians who access online content. Comparing minor infringements with theft, terrorism and paedophilia does little to encourage public sympathy with the content industry’s legitimate concerns.

In describing us as ‘the worst pirates in the world’ (another apocryphal claim), rights holders are conveniently ignoring the fact that Australians are willing to pay for quality content. It is rarely reported that Game of Thrones was Australia’s most popular, legally downloaded TV show or film in 2013, or that Australia is only second to the US on a per capita basis in digital consumer revenues.

International experience also shows that as the availability of services like Netflix rises, infringement via P2P technology declines. The music industry, for example, has moved to new business models and great music streaming services such as Spotify and iTunes. Spotify’s Kate Vale said earlier this year access, availability and price does contribute and is the answer to reducing piracy.

iiNet CEO, David Buckingham

One of the proposed approaches floated by the government could extend liability of infringement to anyone providing access to content. Under this proposal, libraries, cafes, schools or any other provider of online access could be found guilty of ‘authorising’ infringement. Investment in infrastructure like public WiFi networks, online, cloud or search services, will be too risky for many investors. Any move in this direction will put our tech sector at a significant comparative disadvantage internationally.

Another option that is being promoted is a three strikes approach managed by ISPs like iiNet. International experience shows that these graduated response schemes just don’t work in reducing infringement. As a former CFO, I follow the money: these schemes haven’t worked, because the content owners aren’t prepared to invest in their administration. If they were genuinely effective, surely the movie and television studios would be happy to throw resources at such schemes.

In fact, content owners are seeking the benefit of any reduced infringement without offering to pay even a portion of the ISP’s costs of enforcement. Our customers would, in effect, be subsiding enforcement as costs are passed on in the form of higher charges, even for non-infringing customers who subscribe to and enjoy legal sources of content.

A leading researcher in this area, Dr Rebecca Giblin has undertaken a comprehensive study of ‘graduated warning’ schemes and concluded the evidence these schemes reduce infringement is extraordinarily thin. In New Zealand, despite massive lobbying, the content owners are simply not using it. In the US, their scheme’s first report provided no data on how the scheme reduced infringement. They are simply not working.

There are things ISPs can do to discourage infringement. As well as making quality content more readily available, iiNet also supports an approach that would starve advertising and subscriber revenue from sites that directly facilitate online infringement. Our own longstanding policy is to diligently avoid advertising our products and services on such websites. If this type of policy was permitted to be adopted across the board, these sites would have little financial incentive to exist.

Australian consumers are well informed. They’re very aware of the content industry’s motivations and control. It is reasonable for consumers to expect an approach from their government, which does not penalise them simply because the government agrees to the content industry’s demands to do it ‘their way’.


Read More:

Village Roadshow's Submission To The Government's Copyright Crackdown Consultation Is Bonkers

Silicon Valley Slam: Global Tech Giants Hate Australia's Piracy Proposals

This Is How Hollywood Wants The Government To Fight Piracy In Australia

Here’s Who Will Be On Malcolm Turnbull’s Copyright Infringement Forum Panel (And How You Can Watch It Live)


Comments

    David Buckingham is the new CEO of iiNet. His company recently published its submission to the government’s copyright consultation process. In this opinion piece he writes about how the internet has completely outpaced the laws meant to safeguard the copyright of content, and wonders why the government has been hijacked by the wild claims of rights holders.

    Money talks, and there is a lot of money in political donations.

    That's why.

    The copyright industry succeeded in the US, UK, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, and several European countries. They've even had some success in Russia.

    I'm not sure why the writer genuinely believes that politicians in this country are any more "level headed" than in all those other places.

    Should the politicians refuse to give in to the return on investment that the copyright cartels demand for their political donations, then there is always those pesky free trade agreements to fall back on, which the copyright cartels have stitched up in their favour as well.

    The whole thing is a "mob shakedown" on a global scale.

    Last edited 08/09/14 9:32 am

      If it is such a shakedown, why do studios go broke all the time? The things you want to watch cost hundreds of millions of dollars to make and the majority of them don't make money. They rely on the big money makers to fund the diversity of the industry. It's their property and they have every right to decide how it is made available.

        If it is such a shakedown, why do studios go broke all the time?

        Like any other industry, there are, for want of a better term, casualties.

        The things you want to watch cost hundreds of millions of dollars to make and the majority of them don't make money.

        Disney, Warner, et. al. seem to be doing something wrong then. They are making a fair bit of money.

        It's their property and they have every right to decide how it is made available.

        You're right they do. And that is where the real problem lies.

        Once a studio sells the distribution rights (a way the studio actually makes money - from the sale and then royalties depending on the stipulations) it is then the distributor that becomes the controlling party in where and how the public sees the product.

        And this is where the majority of the screaming is coming from. No offence meant to the new CEO but to be more accurate the debate is not being hijacked by studios - it is being hijacked by distributors who see their role as being downsized or made completely redundant.

          And this is where the majority of the screaming is coming from. No offence meant to the new CEO but to be more accurate the debate is not being hijacked by studios - it is being hijacked by distributors who see their role as being downsized or made completely redundant.

          This is most certainly the crux of the issue. The writing is on the wall for distributors - has been for some time. Rather than trying to compete with innovative business models they are trying to legislate to protect antiquated ones.

          If the major hollywood companies don't pay attention to digital distribution it could swallow them whole - just look at some of the original programming netflix has done. It's early days but if the trends continue they could most definitely eat a very significant portion of hollywoods pie.

            If the major hollywood companies don't pay attention to digital distribution it could swallow them whole

            I think it maybe happening already.

            In signing with the likes of Channel Nine, Foxtel and others, studios have most likely cut themselves out of such a market as (depending on the wording and stipulations) any attempt to offer a local Netflix rights may be raised as a contractual violation.

            This is why (coupled with the poor Internet infrastructure here) I do not see Netflix coming here anytime soon. The market is just not viable and no-one in their right mind will pay a marked up version of Netflix.

    Looks like David Buckingham will be a worthy successor to Steve Dalby... Keep up the good work Dave..! :)

      Steve is their Chief Regulatory Officer and still works in his role. David was the Chief Financial Officer and has stepped into the CEO role after Michael Malone, the founder of iiNet, stepped down in March.

        Ahh... I was under the impression Steve was leaving, can't remember where I read that, but good on both of 'em..! :)

          The fuckwit that runs Village said he hoped Steve would be fired or quit with the leadership change at iiNet.

            Which fuckwit would that be? They have quite a few old men fuckwits in that place.

    Absolutely love this line

    "Comparing minor infringements with theft, terrorism and paedophilia does little to encourage public sympathy with the content industry’s legitimate concerns."

    So very true and to me, trivialises the actual issues of theft, terrorism and paedophilia.

      ... except that it is theft. It's no different to sneaking into the cinema or to football game or a concert without paying. Do you think that if you got caught doing that that they wouldn't call the cops?

        In a word - no. Fuck so many times when i was a teenager we snuck people into drive ins with them hiding in the boot.... worst we'd cop is a verbal spray. Not once did they call the cops.

        Drawing a comparison between downloading a movie and terrorism\paedophilia is just insane. Any rational person can see that. If this is the severity that corporations view piracy they're at a total disconnect with the general public.

        ... except that it is theft

        No, it's infringement. The original object is never removed so can never be considered theft.

    Only issue I have with this story is their suggestion that companies refuse to advertise on sites that facilitate and encourage illegal downloading. Have you seen the advertisements on torrent sites? The companies advertising there are clearly not concerned with ethics. I don't feel like this is a realistic way to combat illegal downloading, but I definitely agree that easy and affordable access is.

      The porn industry has no issue advertising on TPB.

    Has anyone in the gov actually read the village roadshow submission? There are more and bigger holes in that submission then in my grannies undies (and she's been dead for over 10 years). It is sad that although Thurnbull is actually a verry capable person his hands are tied by his party. It is almost hilarious to see his interviews where his face clearly shows the oposite of what he is saying. He knows he is talking bs but he is not allowed by party policy to go against the party leader.

    "the worst pirates in the world". Given that we do it so much wouldn't we be "the best pirates in the world"?

    is it possible to be straight and in love with a male.. in this case 2..
    God I love those iinet guys :)

    its finally good to see that there are some people who fight for what is not only right but for what is needed. if this always happened so publicly then the world would be better

    Example is that England just passed a bill that prohibits creationism in English schools and makes evolution a part of the base education :D WOOT!

    I have noted that in the past 2 weeks there have been multitudes of articles in paperers that read as if the ISPs had already agreed to implement screening of downloads. Upon reading these articles further it becomes clear that the articles are just plants and they end up saying that there has been no agreement on who pays.

    I am of the opinion that if downloading was stopped. It would not equate to a rise in revenue for movie studios. There would be a lot of red faces around..
    Perhaps that's why the industry makes noises but does nothing to help itself in any meaningful way. They know that downloaders are opportunists and only down load because 'its there' not because they 'must' see it.

    But as the article says these studio dinosaurs need to get their act together. I would suggest release in all markets, do away with zones. Offer the base video at a sensible price and offer one with all the add on frills at a higher price, both in media and download versions, based on standard world pricing.
    Then there is the important bit. Stop making crap.

    This is the reason I chose iinet for my new ISP when NBN got rolled out in my area.

    "extend liability of infringement to anyone providing access to content (such as libraries)"

    Thats the most narrow minded thing I heard, that the one that scares me. If you photocopy or scan something, people consider that fair use, its not, its a huge copyright violation risk. Email it to a dozen people, you expose more risk, they email it to someone outside your company/organisation even more risk even more liablity.

    How many businesses and staff throughout Australia, scan and photocopy things ?
    That therefore extends liability for any and all infringements to every business in Australia... that makes it profitable for copyright holders to just start suing every major business in Australia, every government (local/state/national) agency.

    "Its fine, I got it from their own website / people" doesnt mean you have a right to keep a copy.

      How many businesses and staff throughout Australia, scan and photocopy things ?

      You have to be very careful. In case you missed this but when it comes to making photocopies one is only allowed to copy up to 10% of the original document.

      If one wishes to copy more of the document, one needs permission from the copyright holder otherwise it is considered a infringement.

      Last edited 09/09/14 7:16 am

        I don't think that the 10% rule applies across the board. I believe it does in educational settings, but not elsewhere.

          Sorry, you are right. I used to be an academic for most of my working life (so far) thus it became ingrained as the norm to me.

      For a start he didn't necessarily mean photocopying when he mentioned a library. Look at your typical library (assuming you've ever used one) - you borrow a book and read it for free. Literally hundreds, even thousands of people could read a book that's only been paid for once. It's a damned good analog for piracy. Yet it's perfectly legal and no one bats an eye. And better yet, it's been around for ages and people are *still* selling books and making money from them.

      As for the copying/scanning side. I know Australia's copyright laws were pretty shaky on fair use but I'm pretty sure you can photocopy small portions of a book for educational purposes. On top of that, I recall reading an article that they were amending our copyright laws to make that clearer.

      edit: There we go: http://www.copyright.org.au/admin/cms-acc1/_images/1474512955533df224a68fa.pdf

      Last edited 09/09/14 1:16 pm

    if copyright is a crime, can that copyright material be used against a person as evidence , ie, The People V Larry Flynt, the Church photocopied the copyright material and used it, Flynnt sued for copyright, but was it used in court ? and what is the law in Australia ? hoping teres a lawyer in dA HOUSE,,

    Scotty,
    ALWAYS HAWTHORN

    Is the answer to copyright, Ownership.? Spotify and other subscription based Businesses , dont they love the debate, does it not get them, "any press is good press"?

    Scotty,
    ALWAYS HAWTHORN

    a person I was married to uses the oldest son I have to this person to download her tv shows on pb before they HIT the distributors, so I agree it is the distributor who is losing out and eventually the middle man will go?

    Scotty,
    ALWAYS HAWTHORN

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