Weekly News Roundup (8 May 2016)

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mums, including mine, out there. Why is Father’s Day on a different day here in Australia and in the US? And why is spending on Father’s Day so much less than on Mother’s Day? I smell a conspiracy …

No conspiracies in the news this week, but plenty of paranoia, anger, with just a hint of common sense. Lots of Australian stuff though, but that’s just a coincidence. Not a conspiracy.


Infographics: Copy(not)right

Common sense copyright discussions are happening in Australia – but nobody (that can make a difference) will listen

Ah common sense. It can be so hard to find these days, but when they make themselves known and heard, it’s absolutely bliss. The pro-copyright Australian government’s copyright policy is all over the place, but we do have an independent advisory body here called the Productivity Commission, and it has released a draft report on copyright that’s the stuff of nightmares to rights-holders.

Why is it so scary? Because it’s full of common sensed goodness, stuff that we, the public, the consuming public, have been calling for all this time, and something rights-holders have been fighting against. Things like having limits on copyright for stuff that rights-holders are no longer making available (the so called “use it or lose it” rule), or introducing fair use (something even the US, the land of DMCAs and SOPAs, have), or more controversially, banning the use of geoblocking to promote competition and fairer pricing.

It’s unlikely the current, or the next government will adopt these recommendations, not if they want to avoid facing the wrath their Hollywood masters, but it’s still nice to see some common sense creep into the copyright debate from time to time.

It’s not just geoblocking that’s reducing competition and raising prices here in Australia. We’re a relatively small country and competition is not robust in almost any sector. This is especially true in the home entertainment industry, where we have basically just one pay TV provider. That provider, Foxtel, uses its might and buying power to lock up content like Game of Thrones in order to maintain market share. This leads to lack of competition and, as a result, we have some pretty high prices for cable. It’s possibly also why piracy rates for the shows that Foxtel have an exclusive on are sky high.

Only rarely does it lose something to a competitor, and when telco Optus stole the rights to the English Premier League soccer broadcasts from Foxtel, things took an interesting turn. Especially since because Optus doesn’t even have a broadcast network to show the matches on.

Piracy Love

People’s love for piracy may be due to their hate for the alternative

The mystery of how to distribute content without a distribution network was solve this week when Optus announced it would be using Internet streaming to get matches into people’s homes. Fair enough, but what wasn’t so fair was Optus’s insistence on users having an existing (and non related) Optus product in order to subscribe to the EPL channel. Imagine if Verizon forced you to have a phone plan before you could even pay for HBO (and imagine if Verizon doesn’t even provide a broadband service to a sizable chunk of the country). Queue public outrage.

So why is this relevant to this blog? Well guess what’s going to happen to people who don’t want to pay for or to switch to an Optus product, one they neither need or want, just in order to watch their favourite team play? Will they feel justified in using a pirated stream to watch the matches? If we had it bad in terms of Game of Thrones piracy, things may get worse when it comes to English soccer here.

Denying consumers access to content in they way they want it and not doing so at a price they’re willing to pay does more to encourage piracy than anything else. So if rights-holders are determined to do just that, then in my opinion, they should not get to complain about piracy.

So if piracy is unmet consumer demand, then surely there must be a way to use piracy data to research consumer needs. There is, and Hulu is already using piracy data to determine which shows to buy.

There is definitely a move away from simply labeling pirates as degenerates and criminals, and towards thinking of them just like any other consumer group (except they’re consuming pirated content), and this is a good thing. Then, we might finally grasp the notion that the solution to piracy isn’t enforcement and technological measures like DRM, but it has and always will be an access problem about unmet consumer demand (even if those demands, at first, seems unreasonable – like being able to access tens of thousands of titles for unlimited streaming for less than $10 a month).


That’s it for another edition, I hope it met your demands. See you next week.


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