Pirate Party Australia has seized upon questions presented by Senator Scott Ludlam to Attorney-General George Brandis during Senate Estimates regarding the Federal Government’s copyright policy and proposals to curb online copyright infringement. The Attorney-General’s responses display Brandis’ inability to properly answer questions on the matter, and suggest that he and his department are solely interested in consulting with industry and copyright holders when forming policy.
The Attorney-General was unable to confirm whether he had consulted with consumer and public interest groups on proposals to introduce a graduated response (“three strikes”) scheme to target file-sharing. Graduated response regimes have been implemented overseas and result in fines and disconnections for those alleged to have infringed copyright online. There is limited evidence to suggest these regimes are effective.
“The vague responses and misdirection by Senator Brandis confirm that the process of developing an anti-infringement strategy is being hidden from the Australian public, and further to that offer no confirmation as to whether there has even been any consultation with consumer groups,” said Simon Frew, President of Pirate Party Australia.
Pirate Party Australia is pleased at the groundswell of support received so far for its Change.org petition launched yesterday in response to anti-piracy measures being considered by the Australian Government. The proposals being discussed in Cabinet are aimed at placating corporate interests using measures that are ineffective and serve only to intrude on consumers’ rights. Specifically, the graduated response (“three strikes”) proposal under consideration has been shown by several studies to be ineffective at reducing copyright infringement. Pirate Party Australia’s petition is directed to the Senate, and calls on Senators to reject legislation that would institute a graduated response regime.
“A ‘three strikes’ policy, or any graduated response scheme, has been shown to be ineffective according to a research paper by Rebecca Giblin of Monash University’s Faculty of Law,” commented Pirate Party Australia spokesperson Michael Keating. “The HADOPI scheme that was rushed through the French Parliament has been abandoned after costing the French Government €12 million per year and resulting in just one person being fined. Such measures were campaigned against by several organisations including the Featured Artists Coalition, which recognised the potential problems and ineffectiveness of the law.
Pirate Party Australia has today launched a Senate petition in retaliation against Cabinet’s consideration of anti-piracy measures. It was reported on Monday that proposals were being considered by the Government to introduce a graduated response (“three strikes”) regime and mandatory website blocking, tactics which have failed elsewhere. The petition is open for signature on change.org.
Brendan Molloy, Councillor of Pirate Party Australia, commented: “There has been no evidence advanced that graduated response regimes are effective. In fact, academic literature on the matter has been sceptical that they have any measurable impact on reducing file-sharing. Instead, there is evidence that increasing access to content through legitimate services such as Netflix and Spotify has significantly reduced file-sharing. It has also been shown in an important court decision in the Netherlands that there is yet to be a proven benefit to blocking websites. The Dutch experience indicates that blocking access is ineffective, and not surprisingly people will simply find ways around blockades.”
Mr Molloy continued: “Our petition is intended to remind the Senate of its obligations as the House of Review. It lays out detailed reasons for opposition to the proposals — including that neither will work — and calls on the Senate to reject any legislation instituting either a graduated response scheme or website blocking.”
Pirate Party Australia is appalled by the news that the Abbott Government is allegedly considering proposals to introduce legislation to institute Internet censorship and a graduated response (“three-strikes”) regime in an ill-conceived attempt to curb the incidence of unlawful file-sharing.
“There is no public support for this proposed legislation,” commented Simon Frew, President of Pirate Party Australia. “Why would the public support blocking of one of the few means of access to content in this broken digital economy?
“Prior to the election this wasn’t even being discussed. However, the Government is bringing the proposal back to the table following donations of more than $300,000 from Village Roadshow in the last financial year. It has also come to light that a key industry lobbyist has had privileged access to staff at the Attorney-General’s Department. This may be coincidence, but it looks suspicious that file-sharing is now prominent on the Government’s agenda, while there has been no observed movement on recommendations from the Australian Law Reform Commission regarding genuinely important areas of copyright reform.”
In January this year, the Netherlands Court of Appeal in the Hague ruled that blockades of the Pirate Bay were ineffective and easy to circumvent, and that ISPs were no longer required to block access to the popular torrent site. In addition, studies in Australia and around the world have cast doubt on the efficacy of graduated response regimes, with a paper from Rebecca Giblin of Monash University’s Faculty of Law concluding that there is “little to no evidence” graduated responses deter or reduce copyright infringement. Despite similar legislation being introduced in a number of countries to date, no evidence has emerged that these have resulted in lowering file-sharing behaviour, nor do they offer any significant protections for content providers.
Pirate Party Australia opposes the push from Attorney-General George Brandis to coerce Internet service providers into becoming copyright police. Threats to take legislative action to institute a graduated response (“three strikes”) regime and website blocking will be ineffective to curb illegal file-sharing of copyrighted material and are an unnecessary, reactionary measure.
“Creating a censorship regime and cutting people off from the Internet are non-solutions which are attempting to solve a problem that does not exist,” said Simon Frew, President of Pirate Party Australia. “Censorship is overkill, and graduated response regimes have been shown to be totally ineffective in practice — last year France dropped its controversial HADOPI scheme, and a recent study by Rebecca Giblin from Monash University’s Faculty of Law indicates that graduated responses are neither successful or effective, and that the future of such schemes should be reconsidered. For the Attorney-General to suggest this as a way forward is absurd and flies in the face of available evidence, as per usual.
“In his opening address at the Australian Digital Alliance Forum this February the Attorney-General cited the Great Gatsby as an example of why we need to protect the Australian film industry from file-sharing. He claimed that piracy is putting content creation at risk. If this were the case, the Great Gatsby would not have made more than double its production budget at the box office alone. The film industry does not appear to be suffering from file-sharing, despite their claims, considering 2013 was the biggest year for box office takings in history, and broke the record which was set only the previous year.”
Evidence suggests a large proportion of illegal file-sharing is actually driven by lack of access in markets like Australia, and that it is possible to compete against piracy if you’re willing to adapt your business models. Consumers who cannot access content in a timely, affordable and convenient manner are more likely to turn to piracy as an alternative. Panellists at the Australian Digital Alliance Forum representing Google, Ericsson, and InternetNZ all pointed out that markets with easily accessible content are likely to see a much lower proportion of consumers relying on file-sharing for their content.