Stop blaming consumers for failed business models: Pirate Party petitions Senate

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[1]. The petition is open for signature on

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[2][3]. Instead, there is evidence that increasing access to content through legitimate services such as Netflix and Spotify has significantly reduced file-sharing[4]. 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[5].”

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.”

In 2012, Malcolm Turnbull, now Minister for Communications in the Coalition Government, stated that “you’ve got recognise that the minute Game of Thrones or any other show is put to air, it will be available globally. So the owners of that copyright have got to be in a position where it can be released … through the iTunes store or various other platforms at the same time … [A]ll they are doing is throwing money away by not making it available instantly.”[6] Pirate Party Australia believes Mr Turnbull has hit the nail on the head with regard to copyright infringement. The Party’s petition asserts that providing access to content in an effective and timely manner will solve the market failure that currently exists in Australia.

The petition also draws the Senate’s attention to the Australian Law Reform Commission’s (ALRC) report titled “Copyright and the Digital Economy” and the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications’ Inquiry into IT Pricing. While the issue of file-sharing appears to be on the Government’s agenda (despite receiving no attention pre-election), there has been limited to no movement on either reports. The ALRC’s report recommended the introduction of a fair use exception allowing greater flexibility for people to legitimately use copyrighted materials in certain cases[7], while the Inquiry into IT Pricing found that Australians were paying on average 50% more for digital content (professional software, music, games and ebooks) and 46% more for hardware when compared to the United States[8].

Mr Molloy continued: “We urgently need our representatives to consider areas of copyright reform that actually matter. The Australian copyright system is clearly not working the way it should. We have all of the negative aspects of copyright law from around the world, and very little of the positive relief mechanisms. Under the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement, for example, we extended our copyright term to life + 70 years — but we didn’t import fair use, which is a necessary balancing mechanism for US copyright law. Google has stated that it could not have started in Australia because our law is not flexible enough. We are missing out on massive economic advantages and technological advances by refusing to modernise our legislation.”

Mr Molloy concluded: “Geographical market segmentation is causing Australians to pay more for digital content. Is it any wonder Australians are called “the world’s worst pirates” when we are paying significantly more than everyone else? Surely these issues are more deserving of attention than attempting to introduce schemes that have been proven to be ineffective?”