AFACT Chief: ‘Piracy inevitable’

The head of Australia’s anti-copyright theft body has suggested that piracy is inevitable and needs to be addressed by changes in legislation.

Speaking at a University of Melbourne seminar, Neil Gane, managing director of the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft, admitted that Australians will continue to download illegally copyrighted material despite the availability of local, legal access to that material, being drawn to piracy if movies or TV episodes are screened later in Australia than overseas.

Highlighting the popular TV series Game of Thrones, he noted that viewers were no longer willing to wait for the show to air in Australia about a week after it aired in the US.

The show airs on Foxtel about five days after airing in the US. It is also available to download from the iTunes Store for Australian users about the same time. However, Australians topped a recent list of those downloading the show over BitTorrent.

In July 2011, Gane sought to work more closely with ISPs on new business models, which could include legal content streaming services.

Gane revealed that despite the availability of legal services, and discussions around further availability, data indicated that content pirates would continue to engage in illegal downloading because it is free.

Sycamore Research found that 86 per cent of persistent downloaders and 74 per cent of casual downloaders engaged in illegal downloading because of cost. More than 75 per cent of people were aware of legal downloading services. The research was commissioned by the Intellectual Property Awareness Foundation (IPAF).

According to Gane, the law hasn’t kept up with the rapid cycle of technological change. “The High Court has recognised that the existing framework is inadequate to address the issue of P2P infringement,” he told delegates. “The policy justification for legislative action is overwhelming.”

John Stanton, chief executive officer of telco industry group Communications Alliance, admitted that there would always be some element of the population that would engage in illegal behaviour just because it was possible.

Stanton said that the High Court’s decision in April to absolve ISP iiNet of liability for copyright infringement by its users put an industry-led solution at the forefront of the fight against piracy. He urged carriers and rights holders to work tegether on a solution to piracy, noting the decline of peer-to-peer file sharing traffic in the US to account for 11 per cent, instead of 17 per cent, of traffic.

Parties in the high-profile iiNet vs AFACT lawsuit last year disagreed on whether ISPs should issue warning notices to any users suspected of copyright infringement. Talks between the parties have continued, despite the film industry’s recent loss against iiNet in the High Court. Discussions since have reportedly proved fruitless.

Stanton has urged the parties to work together on customer education, as well as a notice and appeals system to ensure that no one was unfairly punished. However, the film industry has so far proved reluctant to accept terms put forward by the Alliance ahead of the High Court hearings in 2011.

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