Hollywood Has Been Pressuring Australian Attorney General To Pressure ISPs Into Being Copyright Cops
from the because-of-course-they-are dept
For years, we followed the important iiNet case in Australia. Hollywood studios, which ran a group called AFACT in Australia, wanted to “set an example” of why ISPs should be liable for copyright infringement done on their networks, and deliberately chose iiNet to sue, believing the ISP was too small to mount a serious challenge. Instead, iiNet fought back strongly, making really strong points about how ridiculous it was to pin the blame on an ISP. The result was a complete victory for iiNet. It won at the district court, at the appeals court and finally at Australia’s high court.
Of course, Hollywood (AFACT is Australian-in-name-only — a Wikileaks State Department cable revealed it to be an operation wholly controlled by the MPAA in Hollywood) continued to freak out, leading the Australian government to hold “stakeholder” meetings between the entertainment industry and the ISPs (note: no public representatives, even though they’re the real stakeholders), to try to broker an agreement to make ISPs act as copyright cops. Of course, because Hollywood’s position is inherently ridiculous, the ISPs noted that it was like negotiating with a brick wall, and talks soon broke down. The ISPs made it clear that it was silly to blame them when Hollywood itself was to blame by not making works available.
But, of course, Hollywood never stops. AFACT rebranded as the Australian Screen Association, and apparently has been very busy pumping new Australian Attorney General George Brandis full of misleading information and pure propaganda. We recently noted that Brandis was supporting website blocking and three strikes like programs, despite them failing elsewhere. And, he’s also come out against fair use, because, fuck the public, Hollywood is upset.
Josh Taylor over at ZDnet used the Freedom of Information Act to get emails from between Neil Gane — the “contractor” who ran AFACT and now the Australian Screen Association — and Brandis, showing an ongoing campaign in which Gane continued to push Brandis with a series of one-sided misleading emails about how anti-consumer programs in other countries were the way forward:
In nine emails from Gane to the Attorney-General’s department secretary, Roger Wilkins, and first assistant secretary in the civil law division, Matt Minogue, sent between the election and this year, obtained by ZDNet under Freedom of Information, Gane appears to be providing education notices of his own to the department, offering insights into how copyright infringement is being dealt with in other countries.
In one email pointing out Canada’s moves, he notes that the Canadian government was not buying into the notion that ISPs should be compensated for having to warn customers for downloading infringing content.
There are a number of other emails, including a few that regular Techdirt readers may find especially amusing, including one mocking the “vocal minority” who were complaining that draconian copyright enforcement on things like Game of Thrones downloading might have serious unintended consequences. Update: The “vocal minority” has responded.
Meanwhile, Brandis — who has also been vehemently defending the NSA — recently took a trip to the US, in part to explore issues around copyright. Did he meet with copyright scholars or other experts on these issues? Nope. Instead, he met with the director of the Center for Copyright Information, who runs the US’s “six strikes” program. Brandis seems to have made up his mind, after being pushed on it by the MPAA, and with no respect at all to facts or reality.
All in all, Brandis appears to be only listening to one exceptionally biased party, even as a very long and thorough review process by the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) found that fair use was important, and that copyright reform needed to be modernized to pay attention to the important rights and uses of the public. But apparently, that all gets thrown out the window because a Hollywood spokesperson has a direct email line to the Attorney General.