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Internet Australia: ‘End site-blocking law’

May 3, 2016

By Colin Mann

Internet Australia (IA), the body representing Internet users, has applauded the nation’s Productivity Commission’s recommendation that ‘geoblocking’ must go.

“We have consistently argued that geoblocking is fundamentally wrong and that it has resulted in unfair price-gouging of Australian consumers for decades,” said CEO Laurie Patton.

IA has used the Productivity Commission’s report to repeat its call for the repeal of the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015 – the so-called ‘site-blocking law’ – that was passed by Parliament in the middle of last year, following what it describes as a concerted lobbying campaign on behalf of overseas content rights holders.

“International experience has found site-blocking is more effective as a PR stunt than a real solution. You close them down and they reappear in no time on another site and/or with another name – it’s called ‘whack-a-mole’. What’s more, anyone with a modicum of technical knowledge can always find a way to access what they want, lawfully or unlawfully. So we are going to inconvenience ISPs and probably see everyone’s Internet access fees increase as a consequence of the costs of implementing site-blocking, all for a bit of PR,” Patton asked.

IA believes that the best way to reduce unlawful downloading is to make content available and easily accessible at reasonable prices comparable with similar markets overseas. According to IA, this view is supported by Prime Minister Turnbull who, according to ZDNet, said in 2015 that, “Rights holders’ most powerful tool to combat online copyright infringement is making content accessible, timely, and affordable to consumers”.

“It would be in the best interests of content creators if we all accepted that the main reason why most people unlawfully download is that they can’t get what they want through legitimate channels,” suggested Patton.

“There is ample research evidence that people are willing to pay if they can get the content they’re after. Some surveys have shown that the people who ‘pirate’ are also among the most active legal downloaders,” he noted.

Patton points out that Netflix has enjoyed considerable success since entering the Australian market in 2015, and two local SVoD platforms – Presto and Stan – are both signing up reasonable numbers of subscribers. “This tells you that there is pent-up demand for the very content that, otherwise, is subject to unlawful downloading,” declared Patton.

“We maintain that it is time to accept the pointlessness of current strategies to deal with unlawful downloading of video and audio content. We commend the Productivity Commission on its very sensible recommendation to dump geoblocking.”


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