Australia’s battle over piracy came to a head as Communication Minister Malcolm Turnbull chaired a discussion between industry heavyweights on how the Government should best regulate the issue. Get in here and follow it as it happened live!
Image: Lisa Maree Williams / Getty
Here’s who will be attending Turnbull’s piracy forum today.
• Jane Van Beelen, Executive Director, Telstra
• Peter Duncan, Writer/Producer
• David Buckingham, Chief Executive Officer, iiNet Limited
• Richard Freudenstein, Chief Executive Officer, Foxtel
• Brett Cottle, Chief ExecutiveOfficer, APRA | AMCOS
• Alan Kirkland, Chief Executive Officer, Choice
• Graham Burke, Co-Chief Executive Officer, Village Roadshow Limited
The discussion will be chaired by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, and will centre around the issues raised in the Government’s Copyright Discussion Paper (PDF).
Check out our coverage on the issue below:
It’s interesting that Graham Burke of Village Roadshow has been added back onto the bill. He had previously told Turnbull he wouldn’t appear on the panel mostly because of “the crazies” that would be there.
If you could ask anything of the panel, what would you like to know? Tell us in the comments!
The Department of Communications, Broadband and the Digital Economy is also streaming the event live on the web. You can check that out here.
We’re all getting seated and settled for the event! We’re kicking off in nine minutes.
Crowd is being asked to settle. It’s about to start!
Don’t forget, you can live stream this event right here.
The lights are down, we’re about to start up.
You can use the hashtag #CopyrightAU to ask questions of the panel via Twitter as we go.
Turnbull is up introducing everyone.
Turnbull is now “framing the issue”. “We don’t imagine we can eliminate it [piracy] completely,” he admits first up.
In 2014, BitTorrent traffic in the US is down to 6 per cent in the US, but it’s still around 26 per cent of downstream traffic in Asia, says Malcolm Turnbull.
Peter Duncan, writer and director of shows like Rake on the ABC, has just been asked why we need to stop copyright infringement from his perspective.
“The issue for me comes down to the fact that I don’t think people understand the nature of ‘the business’, what we do, how we do it and the labour put into making film and television,” he says.
“We almost lost the war calling it ‘piracy’, becuase [Pirates of the Carribean] comes to mind. We should call it theft and then subcategorise it.”
Peter Duncan talks about the example of The Hurt Locker: 6 million tickets, 10 million downloads. The director is now telling investors she won’t be able to get their money back if that continues, PD says.
He relates an example of how Spain has no indie film market now because of piracy.
“This isn’t about my bank balance, this is about the prospect of the future of the industry,” he adds.
Applause breaks out for Peter Duncan’s impassioned argument. Not the last we’ll hear tonight I’m sure.
Back to Turnbull, introducing peer to peer downloads and BitTorrent. Malcolm Turnbull is explaining it to the audience.
“Peer to peer file sharing is very high,” he says. 11.6 per cent of the downloads of Game Of Thrones come from Australia. Turnbull asks Graham Burke of Village Roadshow how he feels that his home city, Melbourne, is the highest percentage of piracy in the world. A smattering of chuckles throughout the crowd.
“We want to support the industry and access models, but this can’t happen with thriving illegal access channels,” Turnbull adds.
“The people that create content are entitled to be paid for it.”
We’re now talking about the access, availability and pricing model. Delayed release dates of The LEGO Movie, Game Of Thrones season 4 and Sia’s album 1000 Forms of Fear.
“In an internet world”, Turnbull asks, “is it possible to have differential prices between markets?”
“Is it possible any longer to have delays in the release of a product? Can you release a movie in the US and then wait days or weeks or months before it becomes available in Australia? What can rights holders do to make content more available and more affordable…to reduce copyright infringement?”
Turnbull describes Village Roadshow’s Graham Burke as “eloquent and passionate”. Here we go.
Village Roadshow’s Burke believes that “if we’re going to defeat piracy we need three initiatives: education,” he adds, citing the Korean example, “pricing and availability, which is critical,” saying that in recent times there have been moves to bring down the cost of downloads, citing the size of the download for rental market where we’re 7 per cent cheaper than the UK and 7 per cent more expensive than the UK.
“In high def, Australia’s actually cheaper than the US or the UK,” he asserts.
“We can’t tell other companies what to do, but we’re currently looking at our pricing to bring it down even further,” Burke says.
“It’s right because it’s good for out customers, it’s right because it can reduce the war on piracy, and it’s right for shareholders.”
“We made one hell of a mistake with LEGO. It was made here in Kings Cross and because it was so important, we held it until the holidays which caused it to be pirated widely. No more. All of our movies we’ll now make all our movies day in date with the US. I know 20th Century Fox are and Universal are too.”
Having said that:
“There has to be a theatrical window so the business can work so future films get made. It’s very simple: records and music cost somewhere from $30k to $300k to produce. Feature films can cost up to $200m. We need a window for the business model to work. Those that say solve the problem by offering them on digital downloads, that’s what music has done but the fact of the matter that piracy is still massive,” Burke asserts.
“As a consequence in music, there’s not a record store left. That was my Saturday morning joy! That will happen to Australian theatres.”
Moving onto Richard Freudenstein from Foxtel. What are you doing to make content affordable and available?” asks Turnbull.
“For a long time now, we’ve been doing Direct From The US and bringing shows in within two hours of the US,” citing GOT and Boardwalk Empire. RF summarises the news that Presto is here and it’s already half price. Last week Foxtel said it would adjust its pricing also.
“It’s important that content owners respond to the market but that’s not enough. Orange Is The New Black is the third msot illegally downloaded show in the US at the moment. That’s on Netflix and it’s still very badly illegally downloaded.”
Throw to Brett Cottle from APRA saying how his industry has been affected and responded to piracy.
“We’re now going from a digital ownership model to a digital access model,” BC says, referencing streaming services.
Australia has hit saturation with music streaming services, citing examples from Rdio and Spotify.
In the physical world, you had 30,000 tracks to be accessed. Now we have 40 million. And yet, the problem of piracy is as bad in Australia as it has ever been. There are 2.5-3 million people accessing legal download and streaming services, but there are 3-3.5 million people accessing illegal services like torrent sites semi-regularly (once per month).”
“The game has moved on since the IT Pricing Inquiry,” BC adds. “Saying that streaming services are where it’s at now.”
Will Page, Chief Economist at Spotify has now been invited to speak. He’s citing the UK example about what worked and what didn’t for Spotify and digital music access.
“1 in 6 Australians have Spotify. Three quarters of our users are under 34,” he shares.
“The play button on Spotify starts 0.284ms after you hit it, which replicates the delay of pressing play on a music player,” WP says.
Spotify has observed a 20 per cent drop in piracy in the last year in Australia, says the service’s local economist.
“The piracy levels in Australia for TV and film are four times that for music. This is during a time period that doesn’t include GoT. One thing on that which is interesting is that TV piracy peaks during the week, and film piracy peaks on the weekend. Supply dictates demand.”
“The biggest challenge you face in Australia is responding to a change in consumer behaviour”
Alan Kirkland, CEO of CHOICE has now been asked what the “consumer perspective” is. “Do you buy what these guys are saying?” Malcolm Turnbull asks.
“To some extent, yes,” Alan Kirkland admits. “There’s still an enormous price gap compared what people pay in the US,” he adds.
“Now with the internet, that’s really obvious.”
“There are very few people who say there should be a ‘right to piracy’. Consumers get that there’s a cost to developing what they watch, but we need to address root causes around pricing and availability to give our industry a vibrant…future”.
We’re about to throw to an ISP, probably iiNet or Telstra, about a graduated response or “three strikes” scheme. Get ready for the fireworks.
“It’s contentious that any of these schemes work, or if they work,” Turbull says
We’re now going to both Jane Van Beelen from Telstra and David Buckingham from iiNet.
Jane Van Beelen first.
“We are very passionate that online piracy is wrong,” says Van Beelen, but lack of availability of content is no excuse, she adds.
“When trying to play a role in anti-piracy, our customers rights and privacy needs to be protected and respected. We shouldn’t have to enforce the rights of others. We want an independent third-party to tell us where there needs to be something that should be blocked or picking up on infringing activity,” she says.
Turnbull asks: “Should you [Telstra] have to slow down the speed of access for users after three strikes?”
Jane Van Beelen of Telstra replies that “at the end of the day, it’s not for us to oversee what customers do with internet access.
“Customers don’t want their ISPs to have that [oversight] role.”
“We would want fast expedited access to a court where people can put their case forward and defend themselves,” she finishes.
David Buckingham of iiNet is up.
Turnbull says as long as iiNet keeps spending money with the NBN he’s happy. “The faster you get it to me…” Buckingham jokes to massive applause.
Buckingham believes that they want to stop piracy at iiNet, but says that notice schemes don’t work.
Graham Burke of Village Roadshow jumps straight in.
“There is a scheme that’s working the Republic of South Korea. The reason it’s so significant is that it’s the first country to get high-speed broadband. The government and ISPs worked together for cheaper movies online, graduated response scheme and in their case it was a 29-day suspension which knocked piracy out. Whoever’s advising you…I’d love to sit down with you and advise you. The stats are undeniable.”
“In Australia, we want to slow your speed. I don’t see why it’s seen as so Draconian, because my wife is a customer of yours and you slow her every month. I wish you’d cut her off!
Jane Van Beelen from Telstra: “There’s no silver bullet here…but 90 per cent of customers warned the first time didn’t need a second warning.”
Ishtar Vij, Google Australia’s head of Public Policy is up, talking about Google’s position.
“The internet has been a boon to creativity…and new business models like Spotify and Netflix,” she said.
“Tennis Australia was also using YouTube this year to monetise uploads around the Open. They monetised 30 million uploads.”
Content owners do need to control their content online but it can’t compromise the ecosystem. The discussion being proposed [would hurt] new business models. What’s being discussed in the paper isn’t extending notice schemes, it’s extending Authorisation Liability,” IV adds.”
Rather than put at risk services, we want to go with things that work. Follow the money works around the globe and the industry has expressed that as favourable, she says. That means to cut off the financial incentive of pirates.
The pricing and availability solutions are just getting going, we need to wait and see to let them get going. There’s a long way to go on this…before we jump into legislation.
Supportive applause to Google’s point.
Foxtel’s Richard Freudenstein in with a bodyslam on Google:
If we sit and wait and don’t introduce some schemes soon, there won’t be an industry in future. It’s much more complex than you [Google] just subscribed. If we’re relying on ad-supported YouTube, it’s going to be a different type of…industry than we have today. We’ll have a lot more cats on skateboards and a lot less Game Of Thrones.
APRA’s Brett Cottle is industry-splaining to Google as well. This isn’t going well for the web giant:
“Of course it’s true that the internet is a wonderful thing…however what the government is proposing is a proposal with respect to the existence of pirate businesses throughout most countries. An entire generation post-Napster have got into a habit of saving if they want content for free, they can have it.”
“This is about getting the people back to the table to start a new discussion.”
Turnbull moves us on with a new slide, talking about the cost of sending out notices.
“Who is going to pay the cost?”, he asks.
Foxtel on why they shouldn’t pay for the notice scheme:
“The first bucket is detecting…piracy. The second bucket is setting up a systems for sending notices to customers. We’re willing to contribute to up-front costs. The third is the cost of pushing the button and sending the notice. Our position is each party should pay their own costs.”
“We want ISPs to do that as efficiently as possible…because if we don’t have an incentive for ISPs to be efficient, recalcitrant ISPs will find a way to make it slow and ineffective and kill the scheme.”
Now to iiNet for a rebuttal. Turnbull asks “why should you not contribute to it?”
“Why should we contribute to a scheme we see as ineffective?” iiNet’s David Buckingham says to stunned silence.
David Buckingham is the lord and master of giving zero f**ks on this.
Graham Burke: “taxpaying companies are being hurt and people are losing their jobs. I think that this can be a profit centre for Joe [Hockey] to invest government money in the scheme”
Burke adds: “We will put up the max [money]…and David [from iiNet]: give something back! It’s not a lot of money! You’ve built a great business. This is good for Australia!”
Telstra’s Jane Van Beelen says that law-abiding customers shouldn’t have the costs of any scheme passed onto them.
If you could ask the panel a question, what would you ask?
The crowd is getting kind of rowdy as this goes on. It’s like an episode of the ABC’s Q&A. Actually, I’d like to see a tech-based Q&A…
“I’m worried all the panellists are going to agree here and the government’s going to end up paying for everything!” Turnbull jokes. I’m sure they’d all like that, actually.
Onto injunctive relief, also known in this context as site blocking. Turnbull asking the ISPs what they think. First David Buckingham from iiNet.
“We could end up playing Whac-a-Mole if we do this. The Pirate Bay hid themselves for many months and in Sweden they won the day. Be aware that technology finds a way around those to pin somebody down,” iiNet’s CEO warns.
“In principle…” Turnbull asks “do you have an objection to if you’ve got a site streaming Graham or Peter’s content and they’re not paying for it, do you object to block access to that site?”
“I don’t object, and if I’m following a legal obligation I would do so,” DB responds. “I’m worried about the ability of that sort of a law. A to have an effect and B for all the checks and balances [to make sure it won’t be abused],” he said, citing policies like the dead Internet Filter.
“This isn’t something you do lightly,” chimes in Telstra’s Jane Van Beelen. “It’s quite a small legislative change…and you could do it quickly,” she adds.
Alan Kirkland of CHOICE is being asked to respond to why they’d do it if people can get around it with VPNs.
“I sometimes feel like we’ve fallen through the looking glass. We’re asking government to legislate to fix this problem. In this debate it’s sort of flipped because we’re asked to do something with a limited evidence base!”
Alan Kirkland of CHOICE: “People who run websites move much faster than courts. Other countries like the UK that have these laws…don’t stop sites like the Pirate Bay being ahead of the market when it comes to downloading Game Of Thrones.”
Uh oh. CHOICE and APRA are ready to have a fist-fight over whether legislation will fix the issue. Referee Turnbull intervenes.
Questions from the audience and Twitter time! But not before we hear from Rebecca Giblin who has studied this problem from an academic, evidential area.
Giblin looked at graduated response schemes around the world and found that “there’s remarkably little credible evidence that these schemes are doing anything to achieve their aims.”
“The panel believes what they’re saying…but the research doesn’t support their claims,” she adds, saying that Telstra’s claim that first notice receivers don’t need a second. From the data she has found, the French agency dealing with that isn’t able to respond to all of its allegations regarding graduated notices. Over in France, you only have a 12 per cent chance of getting a notice in the first place.
“If you’ve only got a 12 per cent chance of getting a first notice, you only then have a 12 per cent chance to get a second notice. That’s a very small chance that you’re going to get a second notice anyway.”
“Notice volume data suggests that there’s more infringement after a first notice than less,” she found.
Turnbull gave Giblin the wind-up, something that everyone in the room seemed to be a fan of. Especially given the rising tide of incredibly rude jeers. Be respectful, you lot.
EFA is up in defence of BitTorrent, saying that it’s actually a service that is used for the distribution of legitimate files too.
Now someone’s up talking about mobile data costs in Australia.
“I can’t wait for a better world of wholesale access and lower costs,” David Buckingham jokes to Malcolm Turnbull.
Producer of Wolf Creek 2 is up: “If ISPs don’t stop pirates, are they considered to endorse piracy?”
The question goes again to David Buckingham: “We don’t endorse it. We’re doing lots to help, we’re making as much content as we can available to our customers,” he adds, talking about FetchTV and unmetered access to iTunes and other download avenues. “We are also starving the BItTorrent sites of what they need to survive — advertising dollars.”
“This perception in the industry is that ISPs are almost wilfully sitting on their hands,” says writer/director Peter Duncan.
Twitter questions now.
Comments that BitTorrent should not be equated to copyright infringement are prevalent, also arguing about the legitimate uses of BitTorrent again.
Jason Cartwright asks how the industry might tackle the issue of overseas sites. Foxtel is invited to explain how it’s done and fumbles through it.
An unnamed person is now up to explain: “It’s equivalent doing what’s being done in court. It’s a matter of setting a trap: the traffic through the BItTorrent swarm is captured in an open and evidence way accepted by courts, which is seen as the packet material from ISPs form this system. That evidence packet is then available at any time.”
The data is anonymised, and the ISP is the only agent who knows who that user is in the real world.
“It is possible to separate what is and is not legit on BitTorrent,” Turnbull finally assures. “These guys aren’t anti-torrent, it’s just that it’s a common mechanism for sharing illegal content.”
Theresa Corbin of ACCAN is up, saying that she’s worried about legitimate site being blocked. Will the blocked party have a chance to express themselves if they feel they have been blocked in error?
APRA’s Brett Cottle responds: these blocking orders wouldn’t be sought lightly, and both parties would be allowed to respond accordingly.
Dr Henry Ergas of the OECD is up, he asks of Minister Turnbull: “does the government intend to to an analysis of the proposals contained in the discussion paper, how and when will it be done and when will it be made available?”
Turnbull replies: “Well, it’s a discussion paper. Those changes to access liability have been [widely criticised]. This is an exercise in consultation. We’re not drafting the law tonight, but Senator Brandis and I want the broadest view possible. This [forum] is another dimension [of that exploration].”
Turnbull explains that it’s important for the government to explore all options n a regulatory impact statement and will be done in due time.
“There’s one issue which I think we can draw people out on further, and it’s this question of authorisation liability. A number of parties — Telstra and iiNet — have raised the prospect that…it would impact on a whole range of third parties like libraries, Wi-Fi operators…it would have a massive range of unintended consequences. I thought it would be worth asking [Telstra] to flesh that out. Clearly, copyright owners aren’t interested in pursuing universities, libraries and coffee shops.”
Jame replies: “We see these amendments of imposing upon a wide range of bodies that offer access to the internet. We think that’s inappropriate, all affected bodies would be concerned about that. Amending authorisation liability is not needed and not necessary,” she adds, saying that no other country around the world has done that.
“If you change the law, you’ll have more arguments in courts over it.”
The Australian Copyright Council believes that there needs to be a legislative stick to bring pirates into line.
Graham Burke with the closing line quoting Steve Jobs, as the company has done to death, including in its…interesting…submission.
These people could fight until the bloody end, but that’s all she wrote, folks!
Thanks so much for joining us for our extensive coverage of the Government’s Copyright Industry Forum!