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Australian Government Presses Ahead with pro Hollywood Copyright Laws

Posted by: , 21:25 AEST, Fri August 1, 2014

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Australia's pro-business government pushes forward with proposals that could see copyright law in Australia become one of the toughest in the world
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Image/Photo Credit: Horia Varlan @ Flickr, CC

A draft discussion paper has revealed the Australian government's copyright reform agendas, which plans to give Hollywood studios almost all that they wish for, and will makes copyright laws in Australia one of the toughest in the world.

The draft paper, obtained by political news website Crikey, includes proposed changes that could see websites like The Pirate Bay being blocked, and make it easier to take ISPs to court for copyright offences. The latter is particularly controversial as a 2012 Australian High Court ruling has already made it clear that ISPs are not responsible for the infringing actions of their subscribers, a decision made in lawsuit involving Aussie ISP iiNet.

It's this bitter loss in the legal arena that has seen Hollywood pursue a different tactic in an era that has seen Australians become more and more wiling to download pirated content. And with an incoming pro-business, conservative government, and a new Attorney-General that is seen to be friendly to Hollywood interests, this latest push for new laws is seen as Hollywood's best chance to reverse the earlier setbacks.

In fact, some in the industry sees these latest efforts as a way to overturn the embarrassing High Court loss against iiNet.

For example, Village Roadshow chief Graham Burke specifically singled out ISP iiNet when commenting on these latest proposals. "[I] applaud the fact that the government is making people like iiNet responsible,'' says Burke.

Others are not so sure that the direction the government is taking is the right one, considering the fact that other countries have tried similar measures with relatively poor results, and that these measures do not address the real reasons why people choose to pirate.

''These proposals amount to a punitive copyright protection regime that would put Australia beyond the United States, the United Kingdom and New Zealand,'' says Matthew Rimmer, an expert in intellectual property at the Australian National University. ''The discussion paper looks like a wish list from Hollywood and the music industry.''

Monash University senior lecturer Rebecca Giblin feels that these changes may be overreaching. 

''As well as raising serious concerns about privacy, transparency and due process, any such deals are unlikely to fix the underlying problems that cause infringement,'' she said.

And the underlying problem, according to senior iiNet executive Steve Dalby, is the fact that Australians are under-served in terms of legal alternatives, which also often attract a price premium, or an "Australia Tax", compared to similar services and content overseas. 

"Rather than declaring war on frustrated customers, perhaps we should declare war on the problems which have driven Australians to take their business elsewhere," says Dalby.


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