Opinion: It's my job here at Gizmodo to bring you the news in the most informative and impartial fashion I can, but every now and then I see something that is just so insane that it can't pass without comment. Village Roadshow Australia's submission to the government's copyright consultation was released yesterday, and it's nuts.
Pirate picture from Shutterstock
When I put together a story, I try and find supporting quotes to bring you the news. With the Village Roadshow submission, I just want to quote the whole thing from top to bottom. It's crazy.
It's one of the most overblown and inflammatory documents about piracy that I think I've ever read. If Village's submission is to be believed, film pirates are coming for your firstborn sons and daughters, scorching the earth behind them in their wake.
According to the film studio, internet access is on the cusp of killing the film industry in this country, and the advent of high speed internet access — via the NBN in its various forms — is twice as deadly.
Village literally compares piracy to paedophilia and terrorism in the introduction of its submission:
"The problem is urgent as piracy is spreading like a highly infectious disease and as bad habits become entrenched, they become harder to eradicate. Also of course high speed broadband is just around the corner.
"The dangers posed by piracy are so great, the goal should be total eradication or zero tolerance. Just as there is no place on the internet for terrorism or paedophilia, there should be no place for theft that will impact the livelihoods of the 900,000 people whose security is protected by legitimate copyright," Village writes.
The film studio then compares the Australian market to overseas competitors, agreeing with the popular theory that lower prices and easier access to content could cut down on piracy rates in this country.
Of course, that's before adding the fact that the price of content in overseas markets is reportedly only 7 per cent higher that it is in Australia, while broadband access costs are roughly 35 per cent more expensive in Australia compared to overseas markets.
And the award for non-sequitur of the day goes to Village Roadshow — Village is trying, in this point, to argue that we're happier to pay for overpriced internet than we are to pay for what the market perceives as overpriced films.
That's a no-win argument, when you figure that I can't buy an internet service from Comcast in my Sydney apartment, but I can stream Netflix. There's no global marketplace for broadband, Village, so that argument doesn't fly.
Village Roadshow then circles back on its old rival, iiNet, in a bid to deconstruct its anti-Village rhetoric.
Speaking to Gizmodo in one of his first interviews on the subject, co-CEO of Village Roadshow Australia, Graham Burke, blamed ISPs for piracy in Australia and flat-out accused iiNet of "lying" about piracy figures and access to protect their own interests. That sparked a war of words between Burke and the chief regulatory officer of iiNet, Steve Dalby.
iiNet published a series of blog posts responding to the studio, as well as talking to us here about it. Basically, Dalby said that it's not iiNet's job to stop film piracy.
Village says that iiNet's blog posts are "very sad for three powerful reasons". Village claims in its submission that iiNet is being misleading by asserting that the studio is leading the government around on piracy, that it can in fact do a job to stop piracy, and the ISP can afford to pay for it given its recent $1 billion revenue result.
Finally, the studio openly berates Dalby in its submission and longs for his retirement, while announcing it has referred the "misleading" blog posts to the consumer watchdog:
"There is a new CEO at iiNet and apparently Mr Dalby is leaving at the end of the year. Let us hope that this regime of encouraging people to email our political leaders on a premise that is patently untrue will stop. In the meantime it is so threatening to the livelihoods of so many Australians that Village Roadshow has referred the matter to the ACCC so that it can be investigated under the Australian Consumer Law, which prohibits misleading or deceptive conduct," it writes.
Following a few more interviews where he progressively ramped up the rhetoric, Burke emailed Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull to say that he'd be turning down any invitation to next week's upcoming piracy forum, due to a high volume of "crazies" surrounding the issue of piracy.
That's the pot calling the kettle Burke.
Now Burke's company is writing submissions in which the problem of piracy has reached fever pitch, without appearing to discuss, pull apart or in any way answer for the wild claims that someone who downloads a movie should be equated with a paedophile or terrorist.
Of course, that was all before Village Roadshow even started answering the questions set forth by the government in its anti-piracy discussion paper. Phew!
The studio goes on to describe its plan for a "no-tolerance" anti-piracy environment, writing that it would be happy to pay "set-up" costs for a notice scheme that warns pirates of their behaviour. It adds, however, that it would not be willing to pay per notice sent, leaving us to assume that it wants ISPs to pay for that.
Village goes on to describe a scheme where ISPs would be held more accountable for the actions of users by studios and the government, and a strike-based notice scheme that would lead to punitive damages in a court system if a certain number of notices were to be exceeded.
Alternatively, Roadshow recommends "shaping" the broadband speeds of offenders, rather than outright disconnecting those proved to be engaging in piracy.
You can read the full submission here (PDF).