News Limited chief executive Kim Williams is demanding new copyright laws to protect creative works and for ISPs and network providers to take responsibility for the actions of their users.
In a speech to the Australian International Movie Convention yesterday, Williams quoted figures from the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT)-linked Intellectual Property Awareness Foundation, claiming 65 percent of all BitTorrent distributed material is illegal.
Over a third of all Australians have downloaded material without permission, Williams alleged, adding that piracy cost the country's economy $1.37 billion last year.
Denouncing movie downloading as "scumbag theft" and those who do so as "copyright bandits" and "copyright kleptomaniacs of the digital age," Williams rejected the notion that there is any shortage of digital content.
"The fact is, more and more legal content is going on line every day. And there are more sites offering legal content, more easily and at lower cost to you computers and mobile devices. And cinema releases increasingly are dated worldwide as you all know all too well," he said.
"You can also now get movies from some two-dozen sites for just $2.99 each. More such sites are being added every day.
"Illegal downloading is the equivalent of smashing a window and taking it, but the scale of this theft makes the London riots of last year look like children stealing [sweets] from a shop.
"It may be hidden from view but Internet piracy has become the biggest heist since Ronnie Biggs took an interest in trains".
Pointing to young people watching TV shows via the Internet when they're broadcast in the US and UK, Williams says it was very easy to experience "the dark horror" of accessing such content.
"All you have to do is type words like "download free UK TV" into a search engine and someone will tell you, quite brazenly, how to break the law and steal other people's property," Williams said.
He said it was possible to get such shows "direct from the source", too, on the UK and US TV networks' own catch-up sites.
"Of course, you will first have to figure out how to evade geographical IP scanning, which you do by enlisting third parties as proxies, by creating what's known as a tunnel, and by purchasing software that hides your IP address," Williams said.
"You may need other software to convert what you have downloaded into watchable formats, or a format which you burn to a disk or USB device to share with friends."
Stricter enforcement would stop file sharing, according to Williams, who said that without "action", the current two-thirds of all BitTorrent being illegal figure would "look like a pathetically modest nun's picnic".
In calling for a more punitive copyright enforcement regime, Williams said research showed that over 70 percent of file sharers would stop if their ISPs threaten to cut off their internet service.
As it is a public system, Williams is asking for the NBN Co to step up in the fight against copyright infringement.
"I believe the NBN has a special duty of care to provide a safe super highway for our digital economy," Williams said.
He believed it would be appropriate for the NBN to be included in any code and be obligated to take reasonable steps to stop piracy.
The full text of Williams' speech can be found at media industry site Mumbrella.