Following the release of a Discussion Paper designed to combat spiralling rates of piracy in Australia, Greens’ Senator Scott Ludlam has accused Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull of backflipping on his views relating to piracy in what is being described as a “Damascene conversion”.
The Discussion Paper on online copyright infringement asks respondents to discuss proposals include overturning the landmark iiNet decision that found ISPs aren’t liable for the copyright infringement of their users, while simultaneously blocking pirate-friendly sites like The Pirate Bay and EZTV.
Malcolm Turnbull said at the time of the iiNet decision that he supported the court’s views, while adding that the answer to piracy stems from better pricing and access regimes: a view he still holds today.
Greens’ Senator Ludlam accuses the Minister of being swayed by interest groups and rights-holders.
Here’s the full text:
Malcolm Turnbull appears to have undergone a Damascene conversion on the issue of Internet piracy since becoming Communications Minister by backing a whitepaper released last week that completely contradicts comments he made in Opposition on piracy laws.
Just two years ago, Turnbull said the High Court came to “the right decision” when it found that ISPs such as iiNet were not responsible for their users pirating film and TV content on the Internet. But last week Turnbull put his name to a discussion paper which openly canvasses overturning the judgement.
Two years ago Turnbull said it was “very, very, very difficult, if not impossible” for ISPs to monitor what their customers were doing online. Last week’s paper discusses forcing ISPs to block websites, send users warning notices and even limit their broadband connections if they are suspected of infringing copyright.
He also said the Internet had made geographical limitations on copyright “unworkable” and that content owners should tackle piracy by making their content more widely available at more affordable prices. But last week’s paper doesn’t offer any mechanisms for stimulating content owners to address this issue.
So, what has happened in the past two years for the Minister to so dramatically change his view on this issue?
Was it a closed door briefing with the Attorney-General’s Department, which has been holding secret industry talks on the Internet piracy issue for several years, supported by both Labor and the Coalition?
Was it a lengthy lunch with the film and TV industries, which have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Liberal Party over the past several years?
Or did the Minister come to his own conclusions about Internet piracy, based on independent research? And if so, what research was that, given that the evidence overwhelmingly shows that the only way to address Internet piracy is through making content more widely available?