Copyright Police Will Learn Nothing From Australia's War On Piracy

Forget pirates, Hollywood need only look in the mirror to see its worst enemy.

Right now Australia would have a three-strikes piracy rule, were it not for the fact that content holders expected someone else to pay for it. Why lobby the government and fight for the introduction of an industry piracy code if you're going to piss it away?

Meanwhile the backers of Dallas Buyers Club would already have the names of pirates who downloaded the movie, were it not for the fact that the judge didn't trust them not to abuse that information with speculative invoicing.

Hollywood needs a new hero in the futile war on piracy.

Having now shot themselves in both feet, the copyright police still continue to wave their gun around in the air. Even with the politicians and the law on their side, content owners are losing battle after battle due to their own arrogance. They're throwing away money and wasting political will because they're too stubborn to acknowledge what's blindingly obvious to everyone else -- they need to win back alienated customers rather than threaten them.

Now the copyright holders are pinning their hopes on Australia's pitiful site blocking regime, which is literally child's play to defeat with one click using a VPN or proxy server.

The first target of the site blocking laws is streaming aggregator SolarMovie, which few people had heard of before Village Roadshow dragged it into the spotlight this week. Once you understand how SolarMovie works you start to appreciate how futile it is to crack down on such sites.

What is SolarMovie?

Just like The Pirate Bay, SolarMovie doesn't actually host content. It's just a directory which makes it easier to find pirated content stashed away in cloud storage services.

Streaming search engines like SolarMovie are more convenient than file-sharing because you don't need to install any software or wait for the video to download. You just click on the movie or TV show you want to watch and you're presented with a list of sources which will play instantly in your browser, just like any other streaming video service.

Of course you're also inundated with the dodgy advertising and questionable software updates which frequent the darker corners of the web.

There are plenty of alternatives to SolarMovie, such as WatchSeries, LosMovies, TubePlus and KissCartoon. Just like BitTorrent search engines, new services and domain names pop up faster than they can be blocked.

These pirate streaming directories have been popular for several years but haven't attracted as much attention as file-sharing. This is partially because it's harder for the copyright police to catch you -- when you're watching SolarMovie you're not uploading data to other users. Popular BitTorrent search engines like The Pirate Bay and Kickass Torrents are adding similar features so you can stream movies rather than download them.

How can content owners fight back?

People are turning to SolarMovie and pirate streaming services because they're convenient and easy to use. The solution to piracy is to give the people what they want, in a convenient manner and at a fair price — reflected in the fact that Netflix is booming in this nation of pirates even though we could steal all of its content elsewhere.

The movie studios and other copyright holders could do something similar to SolarMovie, with a cross-service search engine linking to legitimate content, but they find it easier to waste their time and money on futile legal challenges than admit they need to change their ways. Politicians also find it easier to back the powerful content lobby than to stand up and demand a better deal for Australians.

We've seen the rise of independent content directories like JustWatch and Gyde, which let you search across popular services like Quickflix, Netflix, Presto and Stan (co-owned by Fairfax Media) along with the movie rental stores. Look to the actual content owners and the best they can offer is Australia's pathetic Digital Content Guide, which is more of an insult than an olive branch.

Rather than investing in new ideas which could win people back from piracy, the inept copyright lobby continues to favour the stick over the carrot. This misguided crusade has turned people against them and ensured the general public is far better educated as to how to bypass token anti-piracy efforts, driving the problem underground where it's much harder to fight.

Of course out of sight is out of mind and you can be sure that politicians and studio executives will soon claim they're winning the war on piracy by blocking SolarMovie because they haven't caught anyone lately. It's the equivalent of watching cars drive up on the footpath to get around a roadblock but still declaring the roadblock a success because nobody actually drove through it.

How many battles do the copyright police need to lose before they admit they're never going to win this war with superior legal firepower? Their next move should be a significant gesture to acknowledge that Hollywood shares the blame for the piracy problem and wants to work with consumers to find a solution. Of course that won't happen, they'll just embark on new battles they can never win.

What would it take for you to turn your back on piracy?

This article originally appeared in Digital Life, The Sydney Morning Herald's home for everything technology. Follow Digital Life on Facebook and Twitter.

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    Do you expect to have to pay the police to find your stolen property? Of course you don't so why would you expect IP holders to pay for the government to stop people stealing their property?

      Copyright infringement is a civil case, not a criminal one. If you launch a civil case you have to pay for it. Your point is moot dipstick

        And he does pay the police via taxes.

    If you want people to stop downloading illegally, you will have to make the content available for a decent price... This is what companies such as Netflix fails to understand.....

      i think netflix do understand this how tight do you have to be to think 12.95 a month isnt a decent price??? its less then a jb hi fi dvd special for a half decent movie!!!

        $12.95 is a decent price, I've seen other services where they charge more than just $12.95 a month.

          I think your original comment is implying a different message than what you intended.

            My message was simple, if they want people to stop downloading copyrighted contents, they must make the content available in some way or form... That's it....

              You said companies such as netflix fails to understand that concept, yet netflix is the very company turning the tide and getting people to pay for the content for their low price.

                I mentioned of Netflix, because it was the first name that came to mind, especially, since they've introduced the Geo Block.... The way I see it, they are just forcing people to pirate, when they should be making that content available.

        B-but my vpn is 9.99 and isnt region locked...

      Netflix pricing is fair. It's distribution rights which suck. An unlimited streaming service can't get much cheaper without totally devaluing the media it provides.

    Like a lot of major changes driven by technology, it will likely require a change of the guard before anything happens.
    Once the people in charge who don't get it move over for younger people who do, the problem will get resolved.
    Just in time for the cycle to start again no doubt.

    "How can content owners fight back?"

    Increase prices, shut down our internet and sign more exclusive content deals, duh.

      Oh, and successfully lobby governments to ensure that copyright infringement becomes an actual criminal offense which can be enforced by police.

        Village Roadshow, Sony, and Universal all posted their highest profits ever 14-15 FY, just fyi. Then claim we're killing their industry. It is absolutely about prosecuting for profit.

        Last edited 23/02/16 8:41 am

    While their goal is to go after piracy, the real agenda is to profit from pirates (sue/fine) or introduce laws they dont have to fund. They think its a major crime, its a small claims court matter at least a misdemeanor.

    Using Australian taxes to persecute australain citizens for the interest of American media moguls who offshore all their profits under shady business practices is not justice.

    I have the solution! Remove geo-blocking so that that people in Australia can watch and pay for the content they want... Simple hey!

    One problem with global releases is classifying the media. Every country has different standards.

    In another life I helped write a blog piece over at iiNet. Two things I put in there make me particularly proud. One, highlighting the ridiculousness of Village Roadshow holding back The Lego Movie for local release by two months and then having the nerve/gall/gumption/cojones to complain that people were pirating their film, and the other a little sentence explaining the difference between the rights holders (i.e Village Roadshow) and normal, rational people:

    "And that’s the fundamental difference between iiNet and the rights holders. They want to tackle how customers are pirating content. We want them to look at why..."

    Nearly two years on, and the rights holders are still waltzing down their circular yellow brick road.

    Same thing applies about the metadata retention. Its not going to work and it has even hardly worked ever (like once I think in the US). Talk about wise spending of our own budget. $100 million gone! Just like that!

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