Online piracy inevitable: AFACT

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Online piracy inevitable: AFACT

Melbourne University debates iiTrial.

Australians will continue to illegally download copyrighted material despite the availability of local, legal access to that material, according to the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft.

Neil Gane, managing director for the film industry group, argued that piracy was inevitable and needed to be addressed by changes in legislation.

Speaking at a University of Melbourne seminar last night, he suggested that Australians may be drawn to piracy if movies or TV episodes screened later in Australia than overseas.

Highlighting the popular TV series Game of Thrones, he noted that viewers were no longer content to wait for the show to air in Australia about a week after it aired in the US.

The show, frequently referred to by iiNet executives in regard to local content availability, screens on Foxtel about five days after airing in the US. It is also available to download from the iTunes Store for Australian users about the same time.

However, Australians topped a recent list of those downloading the show over BitTorrent.

According to Gane, AFACT stakeholders thought it unreasonable that pirates were unwilling to wait for the show to be aired in Australia.

He was unable to address iTnews’ question on whether or not piracy rates were lower on shows that were fast-tracked to Australia.

Last year, Gane suggested that AFACT would work more closely with ISPs on new business models, which could include legal content streaming services.

At the time, he said there were 27 legal streaming services in Australia and “more every month”.

Gane said last night that despite the availability of legal services, and discussions around further availability, data from Sycamore Research indicated that content pirates would continue to engage in illegal downloading because it is free.

The researchers found that 86 percent of persistent downloaders and 74 percent of casual downloaders engaged in illegal downloading because of cost. More than 75 percent of people were aware of legal downloading services, the researchers found.

The research, which is yet to be released, was commissioned by the Intellectual Property Awareness Foundation (IPAF), who has previously refused to comment or validate the cited survey results.

The IPAF publicly notes support for AFACT on its website and includes the federation's US sponsor, the Motion Picture Association of America, on its board of members among other rights holders.

Gane argued that the law had not kept up with the rapid cycle of technological change.

"The High Court has recognised that the existing framework is inadequate to address the issue of P2P infringement,” he told seminar attendees.

“The policy justification for legislative action is overwhelming.”

Industry talks

John Stanton, chief executive officer of telecommunications industry group Communications Alliance, agreed that there would always be some portion of the population that would engage in illegal behavior simply because it was possible.

Stanton told seminar attendees that the High Court’s decision in April to absolve iiNet of liability for copyright infringement by its users put an industry-led solution at the forefront of the war on piracy.

He urged carriers and rights holders to collaborate on a solution to piracy, highlighting the decline of peer-to-peer file sharing traffic in the US to account for 11 percent, instead of 17 percent, of traffic.

Parties in the high-profile iiNet vs AFACT lawsuit last year disagreed on whether internet service providers should issue warning notices to any users suspected of copyright infringement.

Those talks, some of which are moderated by the Attorney-General's Department, have continued despite the film industry's recent loss against iiNet in the High Court. Discussions since have reportedly proved fruitless.

Stanton this week called for all parties to work together on customer education, as well as a notice and appeals system to ensure that no one was unfairly punished.

With online piracy costing rights holders $2.46 million per day in Australia according to AFACT and other film industry estimates, Stanton encouraged the industry to invest in a customer warning scheme.

He noted that warning notices that included the right information could yield a 70 percent compliance from users, potentially gaining the industry $1.4 million per day according to Stanton's estimates.

However, the film industry has so far been unwilling to accept terms put forward by the Comms Alliance ahead of the High Court hearings last year.

Updated: The article initially pegged daily film industry lossses at $1.3 million in Australia. This has been corrected to $2.46 million.

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