ISP iiNet's chief regulatory officer Steve Dalby has urged copyright owners to take a leaf from the bottled water industry when thinking about how to compete with 'free' distribution models.
In a blog post published today, Dalby took aim at the repeated assertions made by Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT) managing director Neil Gane that "there's no business model in the world that can compete with free".
Rights holders – through their supporters, the Intellectual Property Awareness Foundation – have spent the past week talking up research they say proves that, given a choice between a paid legal TV show or pirated free version, those prone to piracy will still take the free option.
Content owners have used the assertion to push for legislative change, rather than to look at their own business models. This was a mistake, according to Dalby, who said that consumers were willing to pay for content, if it was readily available.
"It seems all the protestations about 'competing with free' are all noise and no substance," he said.
"The bottled water industry seems to be doing a fair job against competing with 'free', so perhaps the rights holders are simply not thinking about it in the right way."
Dalby's comments coincide with today's roundtable discussion between rights holders and ISPs in Sydney, to be mediated by the Attorney-General's office.
It is the first meeting between the sides since iiNet was handed victory by the High Court against AFACT's claims that the ISP "sanctioned, approved and countenanced" piracy actions by internet users over its network.
it is also the first closed-door meeting to introduce representation from consumer groups, including the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network and the Internet Society of Australia.
But Dalby said he believed talks with AFACT to determine a new model for content sharing would not amount to much.
"Australia will not get anything useful from the rights holders in 2012 and in that respect, very little has changed since 2005," he said.
"We did get clear and total rejections of all proposals put to them by the Telco industry to limit infringements, but due to the events of the past seven years, those offers are no longer on the table."
AFACT is likely to use today's meeting to continue to push for legislative change in Australia, rather than the negotiation of a new content offering model.
Its supporters – including the Intellectual Property Awareness Foundation – have spent the past week producing research that also aims to support AFACT's case for legal, rather than business model, changes.