Oz consumer body criticises government piracy plans

According to Australian consumer advice and advocacy body CHOICE, the leaked Federal Government’s Online Copyright Infringement discussion paper sidesteps the Australia tax issue and fails to deal with the real causes of piracy.

“If the Government is serious about addressing piracy, it needs to address the fundamental issues: that Australians often find it hard to gain access to content like movies and television, and when they do, they pay far too much compared to consumers in other countries,” stated CHOICE Campaigns Manager Erin Turner.

“This issue was comprehensively examined by the IT Pricing Inquiry, which released its report – At what cost? IT pricing and the Australia tax – one year ago. Australians commonly pay around 50 per cent more for software and other digital products like games and music. The IT Pricing Inquiry provided a bipartisan blueprint for reforms to address this price discrimination,” she said,

“If the leaks are correct, the Government’s leaked anti-piracy discussion paper has missed the opportunity to deal with this problem – in fact, the paper explicitly says the Government does not want to receive comment on Australia tax issues,” she noted.

The leaked paper acknowledges that “rights holders can ensure that content can be accessed easily and at a reasonable price by their customers” but offers no policy solutions to address the Australia tax. It also states that it is “not seeking comment” on issues raised in the IT Pricing Inquiry, the consumer group advised.

“The leaked paper appears to focus on expanding the liability of Internet Service Providers for copyright infringement, and introducing an anti-piracy Internet filter. These sorts of measures, when introduced overseas, have proven to be ineffective in reducing piracy, and costly for consumers,” Turner suggested.

CHOICE suggests Australians are still paying more for identical digital products. For example, Adelaide-born artist Sia’s new album, which reached number one in the United States last month, is 82 per cent more expensive in the Australian iTunes store than in the US iTunes store.

Similarly the new album of from Aussie artist Iggy Azalea, who has also made it big in the United States, costs Australian consumers 45 per cent more. And it’s not just music – Australians pay 42 per cent more to watch Australian Actor Hugh Jackman in The Wolverine.

CHOICE believes that online copyright infringement is a real issue that must be addressed. However it also believes that piracy in Australian is in part driven by poor access and high prices of content, which are out of sync with other markets.

“We are not suggesting that better access and more competitive prices are silver bullets that will solve this issue entirely. However they are important factors which deserve real consideration – not just a tokenistic mention in a preamble,” concluded Turner.

The main recommendation of the report that CHOICE would like the government to address:

  • All parallel import restrictions under Copyright law be removed, giving Australians access to cheaper, genuine goods

  • Copyright law be reformed to give greater protection to consumers getting around geo-blocks

  • Consumers be educated on their rights to get around geo-blocks, and the tools available to them

  • The Government consider amending the law to make terms of service which seek to enforce geo-blocking void

  • The Government consider an out-right ban on geo-blocking as a last resort

  • The Government consider creating a ‘right of resale’ for digital goods, as well as restrictions on digital locks that tether consumers to particular products

  • Intellectual property no longer be exempt from parts of consumer and competition law

Posted by on Jul 29 2014. Filed under Articles, Content, Piracy, Policy, Regulation, Rights.

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