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Australian media chief lambasts Google over movie piracy

June 16, 2014

By Colin Mann

Graham Burke, Co-Chairman and Co-CEO of Australian media group Village Roadshow has launched a scathing attack on Google, accusing the company of putting forward misconceived arguments in the copyright debate.

Writing a comment piece in Melbourne daily The Age, Burke noted that a couple of years previously, former senior media executive Kim Williams had pointed out that without effective copyright protection, and the ability of creative people all around the world to enforce their rights, many of the movies, television series and books that Australians love would simply not have been produced.

“Films like The Castle, Gallipoli, Red Dog, Mad Max, Muriel’s Wedding and Priscilla to name a few. Films that speak to us as Australians, which have not only thrilled and entertained Australians but also made a real contribution to our cultural life. These are under threat,” he warned.

“Our Attorney-General George Brandis is attempting to reform our copyright law. Meanwhile Google, one of the multi-national companies attempting to avoid paying tax here, is lobbying in Canberra to stop this, by putting forward the following six fundamentally misconceived arguments:

  1. Its contention that implementation of piracy legislation would have little effect. There is proof in Europe and Korea, which received high-speed broadband early, that legislation done in concert with legally available product and education is in fact conclusively effective. Overwhelmingly, most people are decent and honest. They would no more illegally download than go into a department store and steal a book or a DVD.
  2. The assertion that the proposed legislation supports big business. The opposite is the case as it is the creative people working in production, cinema and television who are good and decent tax-paying Australians who will lose their jobs. About 910,000 people depend upon copyright protection for their livelihood. My company Village Roadshow is public and all shareholders are Australian.
  3. Google contends that legislation would impede new business models. The opposite is the case according to Apple founder Steve Jobs who said: ‘From the earliest days at Apple, I realised that we thrived when we created intellectual property. If people copied or stole our software we’d be out of business. If it weren’t protected there’d be no incentive for us to make new software or product designs. If protection of intellectual property begins to dissipate creative companies will disappear or never get started. But there’s a simpler reason. It’s wrong to steal. It hurts other people. And it hurts your own character.’
  4. Google suggests online piracy is primarily ‘an availability and pricing problem’. It would of course know that this is not so and has been demonstrated conclusively otherwise in the music industry. Simply stated, it is tough enough to get films and quality TV produced in Australia and it becomes impossible if the product is not protected and simply stolen.
  5. Suggesting that if you block a site another one will just pop up so therefore it is pointless is the same as saying don’t arrest a drug dealer because another one will probably emerge. Google would know that children who go to pirated sites are entering a seriously sleazy and bad neighbourhood. These sites are big business and advertising models that almost totally promote pornography, gambling and scams.
  6. Google says the proposed three strikes policy is too draconian. Overseas experience has shown that most people, when it is pointed out that it is theft, stop illegal downloading. For the others, if there is a meaningful deterrent it will almost never be used and piracy will cease. Like parking in a towaway zone.”

“Google pays little or zero tax in Australia and produces nothing. Village Roadshow in the past 10 years with its partners has produced films worth $2.6 billion with massive employment.  Additionally, copyright owners are aggressively encouraging and promoting new business models for the legal purchasing of content. There are 10 already operating.  I say to Mr Google, turn the question around. Why shouldn’t the government legislate against theft? Change the name from piracy which connotes something roguish and even romantic. Recognise why piracy is a lose/lose equation. Workers get hurt and good content gets cancelled,” he contended.

“In 1842, Charles Dickens went to the US and helped shape new copyright laws which as he said at the time reflected ‘the exquisite justice of never deriving six pence from an enormous American sale of all my books’.  In 2014, we want to adopt laws that are fair and we want to live together on the Internet in a way that is positive and in the greater community interest,” he concluded.

Categories: Articles, Content, Piracy, Policy, Production, Regulation, Rights