Australian Media Company CEO Accuses iiNet ISP Of Piracy 'Lies', Says Illegal Filesharing Is Theft

from the elegant-explanations dept

For many years, Techdirt has been covering the dogged efforts of the Australian ISP iiNet to stand up for its users against bullying by the copyright industries. After Hollywood lost its big lawsuit against iiNet back in 2012, things went quiet until recently, when the installation of a new government in Australia has led to years of careful research in the field of copyright being thrown out, and a return to dogma-based policy-making that has no time for the facts.

An interview by Luke Hopewell in Gizmodo Australia with Graham Burke, co-CEO of the Village Roadshow Australia media company, provides further evidence of how Australia is stuck in the past when it comes to copyright. It’s striking how it trots out just about every tired and discredited argument in favor of harsher punishment for those allegedly sharing unauthorized files, along with the repeated claim that iiNet is lying:

“What iiNet are saying to govt is ‘oh, let’s just have everything available at the same time, cinema and everything and the [piracy] problem will go away. They know that’s a lie because of the music industry. In June alone there was 1.2 million illegal downloads of music, and that’s released at exactly the same time everywhere,” Burke said.

Nobody claims that making everything available at the same time will make piracy go away completely. That’s partly because the “piracy problem” in Australia as elsewhere is often more a problem of poor service, as this story from TorrentFreak last year makes clear:

News Corp owns 50% of pay television company Foxtel, the outfit with the rights to show Game of Thrones in Australia. At last count during August the company had around 2.5 million subscribers, but despite the show being legally available to them, the News Corp CEO said that 20% of Foxtel customers still chose to watch the show illegally.

This shows that even when they have access to the legal services, a significant number of people turn to illegal downloads, presumably because they are more convenient — a pretty damning verdict on the state of the commercial offerings. Making everything available immediately won’t solve that problem — only offering well-designed legal services will — but research shows that easy availability through legal services does cut down the level of illegal filesharing, which is presumably what iiNet is trying to get the Australian government to understand.

Next, Burke comes out with a favorite trope of the copyright maximalists:

Piracy produces less of a financial burden for the music industry, according to Burke. Producing an album only costs around $300,000 at the top end, whereas the cost of making a film in the studio model starts at $5 million, and ranges right up to $200 million for epics like Skyfall, Man of Steel and Avatar to name a few.

Of course, that makes the huge and unjustified assumption that such $200 million “epics” are an indispensable part of cinema. In fact, one of the exciting developments in recent years has been the democratization of film-making through high-quality, low-cost video technology that lets people make films for thousands, not millions, of dollars. As Burke himself points out, piracy isn’t really a problem for such productions — another argument in their favor.

He then moves on to another discredited idea — three-strike schemes — plus some more name-calling:

“It’s sad that to forward their case, [iiNet] use what they must know is a fabric of lies. They’re saying that there’s no proof that graduated response works. They’re instancing a number of countries where graduated response was frustrated by lobbying and the power of Google, which pays little to no tax in Australia and creates nothing,” he said.

Graduated response was not “frustrated by lobbying”, it failed because it is an inherently flawed idea, based on fear, not fairness. And it’s telling that Burke tries to distract attention from this by introducing Google and its irrelevant tax affairs here, even going so far as to say that Google “creates nothing”. Since people use its free services, and in vast numbers, they presumably see value in them, which means that it most certainly does contribute to Australia, just not in the form of making films or music, say. Bizarrely, Burke then goes to accuse iiNet of the same sin:

They [iiNet] are also demonstrating the fact that their business model is predicated on selling time, and of course they want the present regime to continue. [Pirates] have a smorgasbord of content online that they are accessing, and paying iiNet for the systems to do so. This is a company that has produced nothing in Australia.”

But iiNet is not a production company, it’s an ISP. It provides access to the extraordinary, multi-faceted riches of the online world, of which unauthorized content forms a very small and unimportant part, despite the copyright industries’ obsession with this particular component. The amazing possibilities that access opens up to its customers is what iiNet “produces”, and it arguably provides rather better value than money spent buying — sorry, licensing — a film or two.

Burke saves the best for last:

“If people are given elegant explanations of why [downloading content] is theft, the bulk of people will be reasonable.”

Yes, it’s the old favorite “filesharing is theft” argument, which is not just wrong, but so widely known to be wrong, that not even “elegant explanations” could ever make it right. Indeed, it’s partly because people like Burke continue to make this ridiculous assertion — as well as casting slurs on anyone that dares to challenge their purely self-interested view of the Internet — that the general public holds the content industries in such low esteem.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or, and +glynmoody on Google+

Filed Under: , , ,
Companies: iinet, village roadshow

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Australian Media Company CEO Accuses iiNet ISP Of Piracy 'Lies', Says Illegal Filesharing Is Theft”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Geno0wl (profile) says:

I wish Steam would share numbers

I wish we could somehow get at “hard” numbers for Steam. Really look at the impact making it available on Steam itself(maybe look at the effect of lowing the price) has on PC gaming piracy.
I would take a guess that the safe and easy access to games Steam has allowed has done way more to stop piracy than any DRM ever has.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: It bears repeating

Those legal offerings that keep getting cited tend to be awful to the point of uselessness.

The DRM alone kills most of them. I don’t want to purchase something I cannot watch whenever I want, wherever I want, and on whatever I want.

Nevermind the fact that they have fractured everything to the point you need to search to find what you want from a number of sites only to find that none of the sites have what you are looking for.

Netflix works because it is a single place to go, and for the most part, it works on all my devices. I even managed to get Netflix working on my Linux devices, but it is kludgy. If they could release a Linux client, I’d be peachy.

Anonymous Coward says:

I read on this topic earlier and there is one false argument you’ve forgotten that they throwed in.

The claim that the copyright companies support local artists and local businesses. Only the artists that are supported for the music side is anything but local; the examples being used were Rihanna and Lady GaGa.

Iinet’s response I rather liked…

?Finally, if this is all about protecting 906,000 Aussie jobs why is it that not one single example of Aussie content ever gets a mention. It?s always about American movies, music and TV,? Dalby said.

Anonymous Coward says:

…the power of Google…

One of these days I’ve got to get an unmedicated industry shill to tell me exactly why they have such a hard-on for Google.

It’s unfarthenable…unfathominable…it’s baffling that these people seem to be confusing a pointer to something with the actual thing, but that’s sure what it looks like.

Geno0wl (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It really isn’t hard to understand why they have a “hard-on for Google”.
Its because they think that if Google didn’t point to said content, then literally nobody would be able to find said content.
Basically it would be like if suddenly map makers started marking Drug houses on maps. And instead of going after said drug houses they instead went after the map makers because “nobody could find drugs if they didn’t know what house to go to”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Then your respect should start. A recent court ruling has destroyed the Conan Doyle Estate arguments that the newer works on Sherlock Holmes are part of the whole. Sherlock Holmes is now public domain.

Anonymous Coward says:

When you have to try and strong arm customers into accepting service on your terms, rather than the customers terms, there is something wrong with your whole approach to business. When it also results in you declaring war on other businesses to try and strong arm them into forcing their customers to accept your business model, it really is time to rethink your whole approach to gaining and keeping customers.

Bergman (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Theft is the unlawful taking of property, thereby depriving the owner of its use.

For illicit copying to be theft, the people making the copies would have to have stolen the master recording from the studio, thereby denying its use to its owner.

The idea of theft breaks down when you have a post-scarcity business model. The owner of that master can make unlimited first generation copies, and someone making a second or third generation copy doesn’t deprive the owner of his property.

If illicit copying is theft, then every time you walk past a bakery or restaurant, smelling their food but not buying anything you have also committed theft — you enjoyed the smell of the food without paying for it.

James Jensen (profile) says:

“If people are given elegant explanations of why [downloading content] is theft, the bulk of people will be reasonable.”

If these explanations existed they would have been offered a long time ago. As in two or three centuries ago. Instead the copyright lobby has always gone straight to special pleading and laughable legal theories — and that’s when they don’t just stick to dogmatic assertions.

Bergman (profile) says:

Re: Re:

One of these days, I’d love to see a studio actually suffer a copyright theft. They scream about copying being theft of their copyrights so much, it would be ironically hilarious if they actually experienced such a theft, in order to find out what theft actually is.

After someone breaks in and steals every master recording the studio has and takes or destroys all their production footage (so they can’t reconstruct the master recording short of re-shooting the entire movie), they might discover the difference between unauthorized copying and actual theft.

Zonker says:

Google is little different from the MPAA/RIAA when it comes to “creating nothing” and paying little to no tax in Australia. They are publishers (e.g. YouTube) of artists content with access to large distribution channels (i.e. Internet). So really the same argument could be made against the MPAA/RIAA as is being made against Google in the interview. Or rather, Google and the Internet are direct competitors of the MPAA/RIAA.

However, unlike the MPAA/RIAA, the Internet allows independent artists to publish and distribute their works, so at least that is one way in which they differ.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

They are publishers (e.g. YouTube) of artists content with access to large distribution channels

Google are distributors, but not publishers. That is they provide a distributions service to anybody who wants to publish their own work. Unlike publishers, they do not choose what to publish, or demand assignment of copyright. The traditional publishers would like to classify Google as a publisher, because they would then be liable for the content on their services, but Google has chosen not to become a publisher.

Anonymous Coward says:

I can’t really make sense of this assertion:

…but despite the show being legally available to them, the News Corp CEO said that 20% of Foxtel customers still chose to watch the show illegally.

If the show is legally available to them, how can them watching the show be illegal? They are paying for access to the show; why does it matter that they chose to watch it in a different way?

Anonymous Coward says:

one of the biggest failings is the lack of publications and reporting of those who have the opposite views to Burke and have the facts and figures to back up their views. as soon as someone with Burke’s view wants it published or stated in the media, every effort to do so is made. that has, mainly, to do with most media and publication interests being owned by companies that have their fingers in the music and movie industries, so instead of ‘fair reporting’, anything they dont like, especially of this nature, is kicked right out! the problem with people like Burke is he knows exactly what is correct but have to state the opposite because it’s the orders from above. they know there will be no boost to income, but it gives them satisfaction that they have kept control. the fact that they have bankrupted people and families, as well as breaking them up and putting people in prison, all over a movie, gives them nothing but satisfaction and a greater feeling of control. i can just imagine how a meeting sounds when the top industry people get together!

Anonymous Coward says:

Turn that around...

“This shows that even when they have access to the legal services, a significant number of people turn to illegal downloads, presumably because they are more convenient”

This also shows that even when people have access to free pirate sources as well as legal services that they have to pay for a significant number of people turn to the legal services anyway such that the providers of those services still make a considerable amount of money.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...