Is Illegally Downloading A Movie Really Theft?

Unlike some, I don't support the notion that if a movie, TV show or album is too expensive, it's ok to download it. In the same way as it's not ok to sneak into a cinema or a gig if I don't like the ticket price. We're talking about entertainment here, not a lifesaving drug which a patent owner is refusing to make. But, despite what the copyright owners' associations would have you believe, copyright infringement by downloading for personal use is not theft and it's not a crime. Here's why.

Rob Gregory is a partner in Maddocks TMT practice and a non-executive director of the Internet Society of Australia.

The views expressed in this article are Rob's alone and not those of Maddocks, his clients or the Internet Society of Australia.

This article is republished on Gizmodo Australia with permission.

Theft is when you permanently deprive the owner of their property, like stealing a DVD from a shop. Once you've stolen it, it's gone and the shopkeeper can't sell it to someone else.

When you download an episode of Game of Thrones without paying for it, you're infringing the copyright and committing a civil wrong, but you don't stop the owners of GoT from selling another copy of the episode to a paying customer, such as me.

So by helping to limit downloaded copyright infringement, which is presumably intended to encourage people to buy more legitimate content, the Government can help copyright owners make a lot of additional revenue. As there's no additional cost, that's pure profit straight to their bottom line.

That's great for the copyright owners and, to an extent, the rest of the economy as they and their employees pay more tax, spend more on lavish parties and generally push the cash around the global economy. If the copyright owners actually pay tax in Australia or employ people who pay tax or go to lavish parties in Australia, some of that might even stay here.

So far, so good. Maybe even the "Australia Tax" on legitimately streamed movies, TV shows and music might be reduced so we pay something more like what the rest of the world pays for them.

But why do the ISPs have to help out for free?

And, of course, it's not free. What it really means is that people like me who don't download infringing material will have to pay more for our Internet connections to subsidise the copyright owners' unpaid police force.

Normally in our society when you infringe another person's civil rights they can just sue you for the damages you've caused them.

That's a touch inconvenient for copyright owners, who'd apparently have to sue lots of people for little bits of money.

Much easier for them to go after choke points like the ISPs and make them do the hard work. Even better if the ISPs have to pay for it too.

Unfortunately for them, the High Court didn't agree. Funnily enough, the High Court doesn't think that just because the ISP supplies you an internet connection, it 'authorises' you to run rampant with the downloads. The ISPs also weren't too keen on snooping on their customers internet traffic at the copyright owner's request without any actual, you know, evidence that something was up.

This all makes sense to me, but the Attorney General seems to think it’s a problem that needs to be fixed. If the problem is serious enough for the copyright owners, perhaps they could pay the ISPs some of their additional profit to help?

There's still the small issue that I'd prefer that my ISP didn't monitor everything I do with my internet connection, just on the off chance that I (or someone else in my house) might be being doing something naughty. Despite the lessons Germany learnt about pervasive "public safety" surveillance from the Stasi, the argument on that one seems to have been lost.

So what's next? Everyone knows that Bangkok, Beijing and Bali are full of knock offs. Perhaps the airlines should have to search their passengers' bodies and bags (at the passenger's cost) to stem the flood of fake Gucci?



    "Theft is when you permanently deprive the owner of their property, like stealing a DVD from a shop. Once you’ve stolen it, it’s gone and the shopkeeper can’t sell it to someone else.

    When you download an episode of Game of Thrones without paying for it, you’re infringing the copyright and committing a civil wrong, but you don’t stop the owners of GoT from selling another copy of the episode to a paying customer, such as me."

    This can't be stressed enough. Whether you're a full-blown pirate, a casual infringer, or a paying customer, you should know the difference between physical theft and copyright infringement. Anybody who equates making a copy of a digital file to stealing a car needs to go back to high school. There is a difference, both legally and by definition.

      If I could download a car without depriving the original owner of their property, then fuck yeah I would do it.

        3D printing. The time will come :)

          The time has come.

            Yep, 3D-printing the plastic moulds for the fibreglass shell of a replica car, 100cm2 at a time. The future is more awesome than I dared hope.

        lol, that's what I thought every time I saw that ad. Purses too!

      It's the difference between taking a copy, and making a copy.

      Yes, but if I work for 6 months creating, say, a training DVD, and sell it online for $35 a copy on DVD or $30 per copy on itunes or similar.
      I've done my research and figure that if I sell 2000 copies on itunes, I will make around $20,000 for my 6 months work.
      Now if everyone pirates that video instead, and I only sell 500 copies,(and 10,000 copies are downloaded) then I haven't earned enough money for my 6 months work to even eat.

      I have worked in film, and in games development, piracy sucks as it deprives me, and others of income for the work we have done.
      It is theft from any sensible point of view, you are stealing my work without paying for it.
      Now to say some people who stole it wouldn't have paid anyway, might be true, but there will also be plenty of people who would have paid for it, but chose not to as they could steal it for free.

      I agree that there are many legitimate reasons people pirate, like GoT not being available to purchase in this country, stuff being 3x the price of in the USA, draconian DRM etc. but whenever you don't pay for something that someone else spent a good portion of their life working on, it is still theft.
      It is right to say that if you could download a car, you are not stealing the car, because they can still sell the car to someone else, but what you are doing is stealing money instead.

      You get something for free, and the person(s) that did the work miss out on some income, you might not have 'stolen' the item in a direct sense (as in the car analogy) , but you have stolen the *money* from my pockets.

      Last edited 06/08/14 5:36 pm

        And so as the author says you sue them. It's not theft it's an infringement on your payment for your work.

        I'm glad NZ went down the 'actual cost' path....that put an end to people suing when they only got $30 in return.

        Also there are many real studies (not BS media bought and instigated ones) that show piracy has negligible impact and possibly a positive impact on sales. One just the other day put the impact at 0.something percent to box office revenue....

        Last edited 06/08/14 7:30 pm

          "Actual cost" would have to award the successful party costs to find and prosecute, no?

            No it doesn' might, but there is no guarantee.

            A recent case where a family "won" damages for their son dying on a school trip of about $450,000 ... the family had to pay the schools costs of $12,000,000 (because while they were entitled to damages, they refused to take the $8,000,000 the school offered to settle, seeking $100,000,000 instead, seeking to force the school to pay that by forcing the court costs up...which the courts found against them for)

              Sorry, I don't see the equivalence to the copyright infringement concept.

                It's an example where despite winning a legal case not only did the family not get their legal fees paid, but had to pay the fees of the guys they sued.

                The case is unrelated, but still sets a precedent for how later judges will have to act.

                Basically that you can't be assured of recouping all your costs by going to court and winning.

          Have you ever tried to sue anybody, it costs more than you make.
          How would I go about sueing hundreds of individuals that steal the content I worked so hard on.
          For massive corporations, sure, piracy might not actually impact their sales, but for smaller operators it definitely does. Training videos we have created have been pirated tens of thousands of times, and they are just the ones we know about, yet we only sold around a thousand copies, despite making it available for just $5.99.
          Getting something without paying for it is theft, it is theft of the income the creator should have been paid.

            According to the actual definition of theft in the dictionary - NO, it is not theft.

            It is not morally right, but it is not theft. You have not been deprived of anything which you previously possessed. Theft involves REMOVAL of a thing. The original owner no longer possesses that thing.

            It would be theft if I hacked the copyright register somehow so that copyright was registered in my name rather than in yours.

            To re-iterate: This does not make copyright violation right, or legal. It is, approximately, equivalent to sneaking into a music concert without paying or riding a train without paying the fare. People doing so are receiving a service that they did not pay for. They don't call these things "ticket theft" or "train theft" because they are not stealing - but again, that doesn't make them morally right. The people doing such things are profiting from the labour of others without paying, but they are not actually stealing anything.

            I have no idea why nobody ever seems to use the fare evasion analogy. The correspondence is almost exact, and most people recognise fare evasion as wrong.

        Here's the thing though; that's not the model they're working with. The studio and creators get paid for their work by the TV stations handing over the money BEFORE it ever screens on TV. So it's a completely false argument.

        A closer analogy is that a large training organization likes your work, pays you $20,000 for the right to screen it exclusively, then you get angry at people pirating it who don't change how much you get paid. In fact, you could use the popularity of it as a selling point to negotiate a higher rate next time.

        There are no hollywood sound engineers or video editors that can't afford to feed their families because you downloaded a copy. They get paid for the work they do by the production company. Plus, even with pirating, the tv stations, the studios, the actors, and the creators all still get paid literally (in the case of GoT and the like) MILLIONS of dollars.

        Your argument is just a cheap and false way to attempt to bring emotions into the argument, and it galls me every time I hear it, as it carries to logical weight whatsoever. It's just about on the level of Helen Lovejoy hysterically screaming, "Won't SOMEBODY think of the CHILDREN?!!!"

          For a big company yes, for a small company, no. We usually get paid after creating the goods as we sell directly, or via itunes etc. Our product is in demand, we can see that from the high piracy rates, we made the price highly affordable, easy to access and DRM free, but it was still pirated heavily. So heavily that it ended up a bust for me, and the others in our small company. It really did send me broke, and it was frustrating as the product was solid, and obviously popular.
          So it isn't a cheap and false argument, and I don't think I was being emotional, but pointing out that not paying for something is essentially theft, and has consequences.
          I really don't think what I wrote is on the level of hysterical screaming.

          Last edited 08/08/14 10:33 am

            Saying that you can't afford to eat is an emotional argument. The fact that you're still here suggests that you're not starving. In addition your entire argument in the original comment was based around "If I do this... and if I sell it for... and if 1500 people pirate it". So you're basically constructing a losing situation, rather than looking at facts, and that my friend, is not a logically upstanding argument.

        It's still not theft.

        There's a lot less middlemen so you do directly feel a loss of profits.

        You can potentially try and claim potential losses for the 10, 000 copies but you're also assuming that those 10, 000 people would otherwise be customers. Which is also a false assumption.

        Here's the thing, the argument isn't that it's not illegal or that it doesn't affect people. Because both of those are true, but the definition of theft doesn't apply. You still have your DVDs and can sell them, sure the demand may be lower due to an illegal activity but it's not actually taking anything tangible from you.

        As an aside most of the stuff that's pirated the main people being hurt are the middlemen marketing it and usually they give a financial buffer to the actual creatives who will generally be paid upfront, even with a lot of smaller creative houses.

        Your example is obviously different since you're working on speculative sales, which at the best of times is risky. Honestly without the piracy it's quite likely you'd be working in obscurity anyhow, but if it's causing that much of an issue I'd look at your business model.

        Depriving potential profits isn't stealing money. Otherwise if I made a better training DVD than you and marketed it better pushing you out of the business I'd be liable to pay you for your lost earnings.

        Doing something illegal that deprives profits is where it starts getting more complicated, but again a lot of people pirate because the price suits them (Zero) and they wouldn't purchase the product at whatever the usual price is. Whenever they pirate you aren't losing a sale, it's just really hard to know what percentage of people who pirate would have purchased. The truth is I expect the percentage is a lot lower than you'd think.

    Maybe companies that make coat hangers should hire private detectives to make sure people don't use them to break into cars.

      No, shops like ikea who distribute coat handers need to pay for detectives to make sure people don't use them to break into cars!

        No, they need the government to legislate that the coat hangers can only ever be used to hang coats, and its up to the Banks, which let us spend our money to buy coat hangers, to police it

          Wrong again, the government need to create a legislation that coat hangers can only be used for coats, and then install data trackers in coat hanger and have coat hanger companies keep hold of our metadata for 2 years to ensure that they weren't used to break into cars. Then it is upto us to pirate coat hangers to steal cars.

            you forgot to mention that they would also need to fine anyone that bends a piece of wire into a coat hanger shape

              Oh of course! Sorry and hand out minor infrigements to anyone who hangs anything but a coat on a coat hanger. T-Shirt? Australia says no!

                I don't use coat hangers
                Want to know more ? Download my instructional video

                But all of that is a lot of work; it is easier for them to go after the producers of the metal and plastic used to make coat hangers, for providing the coat hanger companies with coat hanger materials.

            But what if you want to borrow someone elses coat hanger, or buy a box of used ones for your old coats? These unauthorised uses of coathangers must also be stopped.

      Not only can you use that coat hanger to break into someones car, but you can then recycle it and use it as an aerial. You can't do that with a downloaded movie, can you?

    Unlike some, I don’t support the notion that if a movie, TV show or album is too expensive, it’s ok to download it.

    I do, when the price of what Australians pay is double, or even sometimes 3 times as much as the rest of the world.

    These distributors are stuck in their 60s model not realising all this information is freely available on the internet. They think we're still in the 60s where the the prices of other markets wasn't really widely known.

    If they want to charge me double the price of something, or even not give me access to something I want, I will take it by any means necessary.

      So when did it become your right to have everything?

        He didn't mention rights, just his notion.

        It is not a right. The internet is a thing that content owners need to embrace, not fight against.
        Why should I have to pay 3x more for a peice of digital content just because I live in Australia?
        There is no justifiable reason. And the internet exists. Pirating is so easy, why wouldnt people avoid getting ripped off? Why should anyone who loves Game of Thrones but does not want to pay Foxtel $70 a month have to miss out, just because Foxtel signed an exclusive deal? Or even the $30 a month for Foxtel Go supscription. Would you pay $30 to watch 4 episodes of an hour long show? That's $7.50 an episode. $75 for a season of 10 episodes and you do not even own the copy you pay for.

        THAT is theft. Legal theft maybe, but theft.

        The only way to make these content rights owners change their outdated business models is to give them no other choice.

        I want to support the people making shows I love, but I refused to be ripped off just because I am Australian.

          Watch something else on your Foxtel subscription, then the cost per episode goes down.

        It's not about rights, it's about adapting to your environment.

        Your business model for paper boats might be fantastic... on paper. Steel is so much more expensive to make and work with than paper! But if you take them out to sea, they're going to sink. In an environment where water dissolves paper, it's actually a pretty bad idea.

        Similarly, it's probably not a very clever idea to pay millions for the exclusive rights to charge disproportionately high fees for content which is infinitely cheaper in nearby highly-visible markets in an environment when ignoring that exclusivity (or any payment whatsoever) is faster, easier, more flexible, has higher quality, and is to all intents and purposes undetectable and consequence-free.

        THAT IS THE ENVIRONMENT WE ARE OPERATING IN. Government and content providers are under the illusion that they have a lot more control over that environment than they actually do. And until they accept the reality of a 2014 global digital marketplace, they're basically still building paper boats and complaining when they sink.

        They absolutely have the right to do it, but it's utterly fucking stupid, and it's an outright insult to common sense and decency to get everyone else to pick up the tab in some moronic attempt to make their scheme work.

        Last edited 06/08/14 1:07 pm

          DRM is exactly the same problem They (the content publishers) wont let anyone distribute the content legally without crrippling it with DRM, meanwhile every from of current DRM is broken and can still be copied, so it stops nothing. All its doing is making it more expensive to stream movies to you. Hall, If the Pirate bay can distrubute just about anything for free, why does it cost so much for Quickflix, or iTunes, or Netflix, or ...... etc to provide an encrypted file that will only play on their software clients, on a limited number of platforms.

          I broadly agree with you that the game has changed and that the industry needs to change with it. However, I think that it is important to acknowledge that users need to be wary not to over-leverage that idea to justify downloading things even when good well-priced alternatives exist.

          GoT is a widely-used example, and from a commercial perspective Foxtel made a very poor decision buying an exclusive licence to GoT and then only providing it with a full package.
          Having said that, GoT was not a typical case. A whole lot of media is available on Google Play, iTunes, and so on and can be digitally rented for a fairly tolerable price.

          I do thing things like Napster, Audiogalaxy, and the many successors did play major roles in driving changes in distribution because they forced the hand of the big players who would have probably preferred to block digital distribution forever. However, it is important (I think) to remember that not everyone is a big label gouging artists and making big profits. There are a lot of smaller labels out there with relatively small circulation and they really are affected by the sales lost to piracy. In short: if people are choosing to download music when it is available via iTunes as a protest against big labels, they need to make sure that the music is actually through one of the big labels against whom they want to protest and not some little indie label.

          Another challenge is that it may simply be more expensive that people realise to produce content. If a GoT episode cost $6m to produce, then HBO needs to recoup that $6m, plus additional expenses outside the production itself. If you pile a bunch of shows (many of them cheaper per episode) into a service like Netflix, then there is a minimum achievable price. That price may be higher that people want, but that might just be reality.

          Anyway, I'm not trying to say that companies in general are doing the right thing by consumers - or even making a good attempt at it. I am trying to say, though, that consumers need to be aware of the reasonableness of their desires too. Some things are simply not realistic. To be honest, I'm occasionally amazed by what is (e.g. how cheap Spotify is). If consumers hold out for something that is unrealistic, then the inevitable outcome is that content creation will not be financially viable or worth pursuing.

          Of course, none of that makes illegally downloading a movie theft.

          I agree with Transientmind. But I'll go further: we Aussies have a duty to download stuff when it is not made available for purchase in a comparable time frame and at a comparable cost to the rest of the "global marketplace" that has become the contemporary environment. I see it as giving the "invisible hand" a nudge - the movie and TV distributors are gonna have to adapt, just like the music industry did.

          To content creators: the internet, and digital distribution, is the best thing that has happened for you. The marketplace is huge, reaching paying customers is easier. It's the middlemen distributors who are having a hard time accepting that they're simply not gonna make as much money in the new environment as the old. When the invisible hand inevitably has its way, and the dust settles, content creators will reap the rewards - look at the book industry. Bookshops are closing, publishers are consolidating, but more money is going to authors than ever before in history.

          That's how I justify my rampant torrenting anyway. What do other people use?

      I might even be able to accept paying more, if we got some kind of VIP treatment. Right now we're told we get what they want to give us, and we should be happy overpaying for old stale content.

      I do when we've been brought up by a consumerist culture that tells us on a daily, if not hourly (thanks internet), basis that we must consume content to retain some standing.

      I do especially when we've grown up with the inculcation of supply and demand in our economies, except now we're demanding that the product is available under equitable terms and we're being told to f*ck off.

      Clearly the business model isn't working when so large a percentage of a population is infringing copyright without question, and most are rationalising it as the only meaningful way for them to protest.

      dude, the 90's didn't have super fantastic connectivity either and sharing information was nowhere near as easy as it is now. if something is flat out not available to me now that I want(say GoT) I may go and download it first, but when google play launches it, I'll hand over the very reasonable sum of money, but if the content is not available for me to buy ever how am I stealing potential income when it was never made available in the first place? actually I've got a better example, Linkin Park, my favourite band since they launched in 2000 released their sixth studio album and first album not directed by Rick Rubin since Meteora on June 13,2014(my 26th birthday by happenstance). in the 1-2 weeks prior they released onto youtube teaser singles, including Guilty All The Same. each one of those videos I watched as they came out on YouTube and while on my computer. technically I am downloading that music video just by watching it, which admittedly is paid in ad revenue- despite me never even bothering to close the ads or skipping them when I get the chance. why is it suddenly illegal when I click a button to grab a copy of that streaming video, in order to watch when I am offline, or in order to put onto my phone so I don't chew through all my credit. given that fact, I'll still openly admit that when the album dropped on my birthday, I very happily snapped that up, and found that listening to it on the way to and from work since that day has been worth the $16 and the whole birthday and day after my birthday working a job I'm not quite Fi ding as fun as it used to be

      Last edited 06/08/14 6:44 pm

      And this is the same problem that B&M (Bricks and Mortar) retailers are complaining about with online shopping/wholesale distribution. We live in GLOBAL economy and need to think as such.

      Did you ever consider getting a relative/friend/penpal in the US to mail you an Amazon-derived copy like I (might) do???

      Why is everyone here so up in arms about prices - if people didn't pay them, they'd have to lower them - economics 101!

    Making the ISP pays for tracking down illegal activities and passing the associated cost down to you as the consumer is actually fair game. Government bodies have always passed down legislation to protect either businesses or consumer through intriducing rules and regulation. If a financial planning company is required to now hold client data for additional 10 years for lets say auditing purposes and they pass it onto their consumers it is mostly accepted as unavoidable.

      But they make that legislation based on some sort of cost vs benefit. This proposal has lots of cost and very little why do it? (It's a lot like trying to charge tax on tiny overseas purchases...should it happen..sure will it? Nope.)

    'The Lego Movie' came out months before I could see it in the cinemas. There was so much hype online about it. I was excited about it but after waiting almost two months, it came out in Australia. I was still kind of excited about it but I never got around to seeing it.
    Finally, I was at a friends place and I watched it. Twice. It was good. I enjoyed it but I didn't pay for it. The companies made no money off me.
    Maybe I could have been persuaded by the online hype to eventually go to the movies but I didn't have the option then. My impulse was gradually suppressed with the passage of time and the cost associated with going to the movies.

      Yeah it was ridiculous, I still went to see it in theatres but 2 months is completely unreasonable. Apparently it was a marketing scheme to ensure higher profits due to a holiday release date but if I have to wait so long I'll happily download it

      Maybe it was the government scared of the movie since the plot was essentially what they're doing to us on every front.

    We are in a world now where we can get any bit of information, anywhere we want, whenever we want. Technically, (i.e. based on my knowledge of the technologies, not how the movie industry works) there isn't really any reason why a movie can't be released in the states and Australia at the same time. Yes there are reasons for staggering launch dates (e.g. lego movie...release during school holidays, etc) however people are greedy, and if they can get something quickly, easily and at low risk, they will.

    I think it's odd that people can buy a dvr set top box and record shows for viewing later and nothing is said about that, but oh no, don't download the same show because that would make you a criminal.
    Also, if I download a movie that's been on free to air TV, why is that illegal? I watched it for free, so why can't I download the movie and see it again. Who's missing out?

      VHS recorder were considered illegal back in the day because you record it, pause during commercials watch it as many times you want and then copy that and distribute. Which leaves you never buying the retail copy for $30. No one did anything about because, you tell people they cant have a VHS machine, and later a CD writer, a DVD writer... no you can't stop it, its just is one of those things.
      Same with this, I download Family Guy and watch it, I then buy the DVD's and then watch it on 7mate also...yes I am a fan... but it is still illegal what I did regardless, which adds to this is all dumb.

    Lets be honest, piracy is not as bad as what it has been. Hollywood is still making money after years of online piracy and previous to that black market DVD / VHS sales on the streets. They haven't ever said 'we are in risk of closing Hollywood in 5 years' no they are still wealthy as f***.
    The issue for most people here (and by people I mean those at the top) is they have lost a good portion of control without any real way of gaining it back as yet. Again this is greater than piracy its a disruption to general economics which is the issue, if you can get information / media without paying for it, then how do you make money. The answer is outside the usual way eg: outside the general retail model, which they can't handle.
    This has been a matter for the world for 15 - 18 years and it has zero resolve yet, and the world is still spinning.

      Greed is not good. Governments LOVE revenue, so lets tax the internet so 'we' can have our piece of the pie.. oh wait they are already doing this never mind... LOL

    A couple of notions occur to me here:
    If I were unable to afford something the international community said I should see,and I were unable to access it by other means, I would simply be resigned to missing out. I would never therefore spend the money that the providers claim they would be loosing.
    I'm not sure I'm being clear here.
    I (hypothetically) download things for two reasons - I want to see if it's worth buying the DVD or it is not available at a reasonable price.... or at all!

    If something I like is available as a DVD, I'll go buy it. Those guys deserve their money.
    If I don't like it then if I had purchased it, it would not be fulfilling it's purpose - to entertain, so by not buying it I am defending the consumer rights that would be abused if I attempted to return it. (Try returning a DVD on the grounds that you were not entertained by it!)

    If it is not available at all, that there is simply no way a producer can claim lost revenue as this revenue would simply not exist in the first place.

    I agree it is copyright infringement as the artist has a right to control their creation - but who is the artist? Is it the scriptwriter carefully crafting the dialogue? The director, paying attention to detail and making sure each performer gives their all? the actors? The editor? The cinematographer? No - It's the corporation that fronts the money than owns the control. Artists are a commodity to be exploited for nothing but money, and I do not feel sympathy for corporations that say "Oh, look - We can't pay our artists because you steal their money". If true artists were involved they would say "Thank you for enjoying my creation" and I would applaud and throw the few coins they appreciate from each of us. Instead, I stand outside the steel rimmed circus tent, hearing the cheers from inside, looking sadly at the rich lines paying the greedy ringmaster, then down at my few coins and sadly trudge away - glancing occasionally through the cracks at the bright spectacle within.

    tldr: Make it available, Make it reasonable, we will come.

      The reason that you can't return a DVD that doesn't entertain you is that, technically speaking, that's not the purpose of the DVD - the purpose of a DVD is to allow you to play a film through a compatible DVD player. If you buy a copy of Sharknado and it's scratched on the back, or it's actually a copy of The Godfather, or there's no DVD in the case, then it hasn't served that purpose. If you just don't like Sharknado, that's not the DVD's fault.

    As a counter point, look at what actual economist are saying with relevant data. I feel these conversations about piracy are debated by who can yell the loudest. In general it's the Murdoch press that considers anyone not using there content are deemed pirates, especially in the case of Netflix.

    Quick excerpt from Forbes article link bellow: Felix Oberholzer-Gee of the Harvard Business School concluded that “data on the supply of new works are consistent with the argument that file sharing did not discourage authors and publishers”

      Yer i have not seen one independent study that has had a peer review on its methods stating that piracy substantially affects the bottom line of content producers in a negative way. All it is thus far is the RIAA\MPAA screaming to protect outdated business models - we've seen it all before (well those of us old enough) The supposed death of the music industry with the introduction of recordable cassette tapes.

      I really wouldn't be that surprised if piracy, to a certain degree, actually helped the bottom line especially for those titles without much of a marketing budget.

        Absolutely I would love Giz to do an article on this! Rather than yelling about the peripheral issues, such as access to content and pricing. Why not look at the problem head on, and put these multibillion dollar studios in there place and test there earning capacity vs how they cry poor over piracy.

    Brandis and Abbott are the only two people in the country that think making the ISPs responsible for policing the users is a good idea - apart from the copyright owners who don't want to pay and want to continue overcharging and under delivering.

    The answer to all of this is simple. Firstly, get rid of Brandis and Abbott, and secondly drag the ACCC of the fence to make the sellers of the material charge reasonable prices.

      In my opinion Brandis is too old to make any decision regarding technology and Abbott just doesn't have a clue / has too much money to care.

        This is a political rather than legal issue. Abbott and Brandis have an obligation to pay back Murdock for his support. They will do anything, including legislate to outlaw file sharings.

        If they are fair dinkum, they should clamp down file sharing on one hand and also force content owners to abide by pricing parity and timely release of contents on the other.

        No, they won't do that. They have to look after their master.

    I am not condoning it, but my argument has always been that if the rights holders made the digital content available quickly and openly (not locking it down so that I need 6 different boxes in my house just to be able to watch everything!) and at an equivilent quality, then I would happily pay for everything!

    Right now, I purchase the Blu-Ray when the copy comes out and it sits on my shelf unopened. I download the BR Rip as soon as it is available, but I ALWAYS buy the physical copy!

    I don't have AppleTV's on all of my TV's, I don't have Blu-Ray players on all of my TV's, but I do have a BEAUTIFUL Plex interface on any device that has a screen and connects to the internet!

    It's lazy I know, but I LOVE being able to switch through movies and pickup where I left off from multiple devices without a problem, not worrying that I am not going to be able to watch a BluRay when I travel becuse my tablet doesn't have a Blu-Ray player!

    If one of the companies offered the videos DRM free, then I would pay through that service, but due to rights holders wanting money from every person that WANTS to offer it to customers, this just isn't happening.

    Let me pay $30 and have a digital copy of the file that I can watch on ANY device. Right now my option is to buy a physical copy and RIP it (which is illegal and time consuming), I can purchase a digital copy which probably has a lower bit-rate than the physical copy, but I am paying the same price as the physical copy AND I still need to remove protection if I want to play it on my Samsung TV without the need for additional boxes,

    OR I can grab a copy that someone has already made available that will work on all of my devices and continue to leave the physical copy unwrapped and on my shelf!

    I have thought about just paying iTunes for the digital copy and then downloading a DRM free copy of the interwebs, this way it saves me having boxes of physical discs, but both ways are still illegal and at least I can show the physical copies if I ever have to go to court! (which I don't think would mean anything either :-S)

      legally, having the boxed copy won't bail your arse from my understanding of it. however the costs to hunt you down may not seem worth it as an individual, but if you were found guilty I'm sure their legal teams would make you pay for not just the potential revenue loss, but all the fees for finding and taking you to court

        @tjv82c @theaptpupil
        Indeed, format shifting is not legal except for a very narrow set of circumstances (described in this 2013 Lifehacker article)
        In summary, though:
        Rip DVD/BR you own -> bad
        Download rip of something you own -> naughty
        Rip CD to MP3 for personal use only -> OK, so long as you keep the disc
        VHS->digital for personal use -> OK, so long as the VHS is legal and you keep the VHS cassette

    "That’s a touch inconvenient for copyright owners, who’d apparently have to sue lots of people for little bits of money."

    Thats the part that really stuck out to me.... thats not true.
    In many cases especially the early cases, the landmark court cases, they havent being suing lots of people for little bit of money. They have been suing LITTLE people for LOTS of money.
    People are never sued for a reasonable amount, they are sued for EVERYTHING they can get.

    Excluding the obvious things about music and movies, this is impacting other things too. Digitisation and sharing any form of information is technically illegal, including written word.
    Private libraries managed by companies/law/medical/scientific organisations are shutting down enmasse in recent years... not cause everything is available online but because they are so scared they have something they shouldnt they will get caught out and sued for millions in a landmark court case. Private organisation librarians spend most of their time now trying to remind the company staff to watch what they scan and are sent out of fear. You want to scare a company, tell them they are violating copyrights and could be sued for millions. Not cause they are doing the wrong thing on purpose, but because its so easy to send and recivie information in so many formats and in such large quantities that its technically TOO easy to be in the wrong,

    If a friend sends me a link and click-baits me to look at a webpage that has Copyright Violation material and I go to that page and decide and it autoplays and I see 20 seconds of it before saying "No I am not watching that" am I a criminal for refusing to watch it? According to the copyright holder, yes, cause I went there and saw it and I should be sued for everything I own. (especially if the governments data retention says I went to the page, and doesnt say how much data I got and how long I was on the page for)

    It may not be theft and not a crime, but it's still illegal. Since it's a legal issue, ISPs shouldn't be the one to police it (that would be the police [the law officers not the band]). Sounds simple to me.

    Just remember, all those CDs, DVDs and BluRays you own.. well, yes, you own the plastic, but all you own is a provisional license to view the content. Nothing more.

    I dislike pirating. I prefer to buy "authentic digital" downloads from the source, or in a pinch a physical copy (ie BD). I enjoy the content and as such want to repay the people who created it. Having said that, The ridiculous nature of the digital distribution model in Australia pains me severely. My compromise is that I sign up for netflix and Amazon Prime (grey area obviously but at least someones getting paid) also I do have Foxtel so it covers a few other shows as well. I download shows in high quality without DRM. This means that I can use Plex (awesome by the way) to stream content to my tablet, media centre as well as bedroom across a variety of devices. While it is still against copyright for me to be doing those things and im sure would be sued to hell and back. The ethical dilemma I have is somewhat absolved since I am paying for the content in one way or another.

    When you are in the business of controlling people be it a bank, a government or a wealthy individual, it really helps to be Black and White about things. Accepting there is a grey area can undermine authority and be very expensive. It a lot easier to say Euthanasia is illegal than it is to look at each case on its own merits. Of course there is a difference between cyber theft and physical theft but to admit that would open a whole can of worms, far better to be Black and White. If you make the rules its best to insist they are absolute get your your foot soldiers to enforce them.

    copyright infringement by downloading for personal use is not theft and it’s not a crime.

    I was under the impression that copyright infringement was actually illegal. I'm not saying it's the same as theft, but still illegal regardless. Seems I'm wrong...

    The distinction made in the article is important as nothing is actually being stolen.

    As others have stated: studies show piracy does not lead to losses and infact can be argued to generate interest and sales.

    The argument that "That’s great for the copyright owners and, to an extent, the rest of the economy as they and their employees pay more tax, spend more on lavish parties and generally push the cash around the global economy. " is I hope, a cynical statement? Because if Australians pirate and keep their cash, chances are they spend that locally and inject finance into other parts of the economy as opposed to funnelling it into a small group of overseas corporations coffers.

    Forcing Australians to pay for everything will deprive local economies of disposable cash.

    Now let's play this out:
    1/ Data retention law passes
    2/ We savvy users all get VPN services at $5 a month
    3/ All Users across australia pay for the ISP's to retain data $5 a month (more lost disposable income)
    4/ We savvy users become the go-to people for friends and family to acquire free movies/tv shows -- just like it was in the 90's
    5/ Some dick ends up at Caribbean Gardens trying to sell pirated blurays- we all laugh at the retro
    6/ Piracy still occurs in Australia, it just loses it's perceived acceptability
    7/ VPN providers have a good laugh at the swarm of Australians they now get cash from due to the Aus government forcing people to VPNs
    8/ After a few years, the ISP's challenge the legal basis for the data retention laws and their effectiveness in Court.
    9/ tbc

    I would supportive to the creators if I knew that we are depriving them of their earnings but the truth is that these people are being paid by bigger businesses (i.e. Newscorp) who don't distribute evenly to the true artists and workers in this downloaded content.

    I'm sure if the content was made by a smaller business/creator than people wouldn't be so fixated on downloading it for free. Take Kick starter projects as a perfect example where people are supportive if they are provided with a means to a something that intends to be provided in an honest way.

    The basis that fans of GoT were expected to purchase subscriptions to Foxtel despite that they may only want to watch that one TV show is an act of monopolizing and if the government were to act as I believe they should (provide equality and balance to society) then the axe should be swung at the bigger businesses.

    How do free public libraries get away with lending current publications so that bookworms don't have to purchase them? Maybe they submit a gratuity-type royalty to the publisher/author based on frequency of borrowing. When a book is borrowed, that copy is rendered unavailable to another card holder until returned, unlike the internet downloading genie which is out of the bottle.

    A thief will never admit it is a thief. There's no difference between illegally downloading a content and walking away with the physical media without pay for it; both are theft.

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