Australian Movie Studio Says Piracy Is Equivalent Of Pedophilia & Terrorism

from the fascinating dept

We’ve already mentioned how a number of comments have been submitted concerning Australian Attorney General George Brandis’ Hollywood wishlist proposal for copyright reform in Australia. There are a number of interesting comments worth reading. I was pleasantly surprised to see the normally copyright-maximalist BSA come out against the proposal, saying that it will create a real risk of “over-enforcement, punishment of lawful conduct and blocking of lawful content including critically important free speech rights.” Dr. Rebecca Giblin, who has studied these issues and other attempts to put in place similar filters (and how they’ve failed), has also put forth a very interesting comment.

The most bizarre comment, however, has to come from Village Roadshow. Village Roadshow is the Australian movie studio that the US State Department admitted was used as the token “Australian” movie studio in the MPAA’s big lawsuit against iiNet. iiNet is the Australian ISP that the MPAA (with Village Roadshow appearing as “the local face”) sued for not waving a magic wand and stopping piracy. iiNet won its case at basically every stage of the game, and that big legal win is really at the heart of these new regulatory proposals. Apparently, Village Roadshow’s CEO still hasn’t gotten over the loss in the legal case.

I read a lot of public comments to government requests. Comments from individuals may vary in style and quality, but generally speaking, comments from large businesses and professional organizations take on a certain very professional tone. You can see that in basically every comment listed in this particular comment period. Except for Village Roadshow’s. The tone is both exceptionally informal and… almost frantic. The use of hyperbole is quite incredible. It claims without these reforms the entire industry will die, and says that infringement is on par with terrorism and pedophilia. Just the intro itself basically highlights the style and tone:

Piracy, if not addressed, will shut down the Australian feature film production industry entirely. It will rip out the heart of the cinema and TV industries, creating massive unemployment and slashing the profitability of taxpaying companies.

The problem is urgent. Village Roadshow estimates the theatrical business is down 12% as a result of piracy. Rupert Murdoch interviewed in Australia said: ?between 15 and 20 percent of Fox?s revenue is being eaten up by illegal downloads?!

The problem is urgent as piracy is spreading like a highly infectious disease and as bad habits become entrenched, they become harder to eradicate. Also of course high speed broadband is just around the corner.

The dangers posed by piracy are so great, the goal should be total eradication or zero tolerance. Just as there is no place on the internet for terrorism or paedophilia, there should be no place for theft that will impact the livelihoods of the 900,000 people whose security is protected by legitimate copyright.

And this is from the company whose CEO is refusing to take part in a public Q&A about the issue because he claims that any such event will be “filled with crazies.”

The filing also quotes Steve Jobs from Walter Isaacson’s book:

?From the earliest days at Apple, I realised that we thrived when we created intellectual property. If people copied or stole our software we?d be out of business. If we weren?t protected there?d be no incentive for us to make new software or product designs. If protection of intellectual property begins to dissipate, creative companies will disappear or never get started. But there?s a simpler reason. It?s wrong to steal. It hurts other people. And it hurts your own character.?

Of course, there’s that other famous Steve Jobs quote that is a bit more accurate:

“Picasso had a saying — ‘good artists copy; great artists steal’ — and we’ve always been shameless about stealing great ideas.”

And, at least for that quote, we’ve actually got video of him saying it rather than having it paraphrased through a third party.

Village Roadshow’s filing actually claims that Brandis’ proposal does not go far enough in making ISPs liable and forcing them to magically make piracy disappear:

Vitally, in Village?s view, the question of ?reasonable steps? presupposes the clear establishment of ISP?s being potentially liable for infringement on their services. It is crucial that this first step be properly legislated ? and then ISP?s will approach the consultation process with a legal incentive to co-operate. As the Discussion Paper states ?Extending the authorisation liability is essential ?.?. Village is concerned that the proposed amendment to Section 101 of the Copyright Act suggested in the Discussion Paper does not clearly achieve this, and supports clear drafting to achieve that objective.

The underlines are in the original. Village Roadshow says that it would love to be able to bombard ISPs with notices in a graduated response (i.e., three strikes type) system, but that it will refuse to do so if it actually has to pay for each notice (apparently Village Roadshow not only wants ISPs to be the copyright cops, but it wants them to do so for free).

The entire comment filing comes off as ill-thought-out ranting, or last minute answers to a take home exam of a procrastinating junior high school student. Perhaps my favorite example of this is in response to the question “How can the impact of any measures to address online copyright infringement best be measured?” and Village Roadshow starts off its response:

Powerfully this will be measured by the results.

Powerfully, this comment is not.

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Comments on “Australian Movie Studio Says Piracy Is Equivalent Of Pedophilia & Terrorism”

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Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

From the earliest days at Apple, I realised that we thrived when we created intellectual property. If people copied or stole our software we’d be out of business.

To be completely fair, that came pretty darn close to happening to them when Microsoft did just that.

However, this does not in any way excuse or justify their flagrant violation of the rights of pretty much everyone when they finally got a bit of market power of their own.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re:

From the earliest days at Apple, I realised that we thrived when we created intellectual property. If people copied or stole our software we’d be out of business.

Actually they would just have to change their business model – not the same thing at all.

Look at is as if two business conglomerates were approaching society (represented by the politicians) and one said:

“We can deliver culture and entertainment and we will make no demands on you other than that you pay when we perform a direct service to you” – and the other said “We can deliver culture and entertainment but we will require repeat payment every time you make a copy of one of our prodeucts and your technology will have to be crippled to ensure that this rule is not circumvented”.

Now if the politicians chose option two they you would have to assume that they were bribed – there is not other explanation.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Australia’s politicians come in two basic flavours. One lot says “Being kicked in the teeth is good for you. It hurts us as much as it hurts you.” The other lot says “Everyone else is kicking people in the teeth, so we’re going to do it too. We’re nice, though, so we won’t use toecaps and we’ll give you some ice when we’re done.”

Going around the states it isn’t any better. In NSW their Independent Commission Against Corruption is steadily chewing up the front benches and party officials from both major parties. In SA before the last election the main leaders were openly boasting about how much they were getting from developer-funded benefit events and how good those particular companies’ development proposals were. QLD is pretty much continuously corrupt, with the variation coming from whether they’re bothering to hide it or not (with the added option of exposing factional rivals’ corruption as a smokescreen for your own).

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

As for the headline… let’s see here.

Pedophilia: ruins the lives of innocent children.

Terrorism: destroys the lives of innocent civilians.

Piracy: Slightly reduces the profit margins of sleazy, parasitic mega-corporations that harm almost everyone they come into contact with.

Yup. Looks exactly the same to me! Break out the pitchforks and torches!

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

My personal professional experience indicates the opposite. I’ve had software on the market that was heavily pirated, software that wasn’t pirated much until it had been out for a while, and all kinds of other patterns.

In no case did piracy have any substantial adverse impact on my income. In several cases, my sales actually increased a little when my software got pirated.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

The excuse most usually put forward in response to cases of independent products being boosted by piracy is this: a search on “pirate” sites usually brings up mega-corporation products. This is cited to disprove “piracy helps independents”, because as the claim goes, virtually nobody downloads independent products.

So if the above is claimed to be correct, why would non-mega-corporations be hurt if, as the claim goes, essentially nobody notices?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: The Picasso quote is wholly misunderstood.

I know where that clip comes from. I have seen the entire thing many times and even have a copy of it somewhere. It’s from Triumph of the Nerds series on the history of PC up until the release of Windows 95 where he is talking about how Xerox PARC had invited him to see a bunch of technology that they developed and what impressed him the most was not what they were trying to show him but rather the GUI interface they had made for one of their machines. I do believe they Apple paid them to use it too. So, given the context, I believe he actually meant it as it was originally intended at the time. I’m not a big Apple fan and I criticize them as well as Jobs often but I am fair in my criticisms and I give credit where it is due. I don’t think this is a good example though.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 The Picasso quote is wholly misunderstood.

If you read the context of the paragraph, it doesnt appear that this isn’t Jobs initial visit where he first saw the interface. This sounds like a later visit by engineers that were working on developing a similar interface of their own after Apple expressed an interest in using the concept. Xerox granted the access so they could study it further otherwise why would you have to “license” a visit?

If Xerox later sued it’s probably because they felt they were owed more more than they originally agreed to in the deal after it became so popular.

Anonymous Coward says:

From yesterday...

“In the words of Martin Mills, “technology companies should be the partners of rights companies, not their masters.””

Today’s article is a perfect example of what a farce that comment is. The rights companies have no desire to be partners. To them, a partnership only happens when they get complete control and everything they want with no compromises.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

It is also misleading because Village Roadshow isn’t really a film studio, it is primarily the exclusive Australian distribution agents for damn near every major MPAA member. It does finance a few films, but even most of that is heavily backed by state and federal film finance authorities.

Most Australian film and TV production is stuff that no-one would pirate – mainly lifestyle and reality programming, or time-critical (news, current affairs, etc.), and most of the local programming can be freely downloaded from the channel’s site (and for ABC it is free on many ISPs).

John Cressman (profile) says:


I wonder if the family of Steven Sotloff or James Foley, both of whom were beheaded by terrorists, would concur that terrorism and movie piracy are in the same universe comparatively… let alone the same arena.

One would argue that copyright maximilists have MUCH MORE in common with terrorists than movie pirates. At least, they’re not beheading the pirates – yet!

Vel the Enigmatic says:


I wonder how much sleep Village Roadshow’s CEO loses every night when he thinks about how much money he loses due to priacy. I bet he loses at least 2 minutes for every dollar!

-then again it wouldn’t surprise me, since it appears that like pretty much everyone in Hollywood, he looks in the wrong direction when told to look at how profitable most movies have been and screams “MY MONEY!!!!” in the most cartoonish wail possible when he sees nothing due to his own mistake.

Anonymous Coward says:

Must say they are really going all the way on their theatric rhetorics and far, far out of the range where documentation can be obtained or claims verified. I guess it is one of those things where they will attack any attempt at factual research on account of their strong belief.

Cinemas are in trouble in some places since it is no longer a necessity for watching audio-visual productions first. It is natural to see a decline there, not as a result of piracy, but as a result of other services. If anything the decline is too small if piracy is a problem since it could very well indicate an underserved market…

Making a casual mention of high speed broadband right after a theatric rant on piracy. That is very uncomfortable manipulation.

When it comes to the complete insanity of the emotional resolution in the drama, calling on 900.000 peoples explicit “protection” when comparing to terrorism is just icing on the cake. Hopefully the writer of this fiction piece gets some support since the emotions in this plea has taken over and destroyed any reason to take it serious.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Link to the actual comments by Village Roadshow in their totality?

It was linked in the article, but in a weird place. I’ve now moved the link to the more appropriate place.

Can’t wait to see how you try to defend his inanity.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

““shaping” is an accepted and routine practice used by ISP’s when customers have reached their monthly download quota – and would be an appropriate “end point” for a graduated notice scheme. Slowing the speed is in no way draconian”

“ISP’s have unwittingly created a situation where the livelihood of 900,000 employees is being endangered.
This is analogous to someone providing a toll road causing cars to crash and kill innocent people.”

“the number of account holders requesting independent
review will be miniscule and no significant costs will be incurred in the administration of this independent review process…
No specific legislation is required, as ISP’s will ensure that protections are in place for their customers.”

“In relation to the proposal that an internet site must have the “dominant purpose” of infringing copyright, this phrase is both dangerous and totally unnecessary.”

“it is essential that authorisation liability be clearly
extended to service providers, and they can then avail themselves of safe harbour if they take reasonable steps to avoid the infringing action”

“The impact will be positive to copyright owners, creators (who are struggling) and the Australian box office…
If the appropriate legal framework is established (unlike NZ), the best measure of whether those rights operate effectively and economically will be in the actual usage of those rights.”

“Village Roadshow will seek to utilise the legislation as a matter of urgency to be able to deal with the significant issues of piracy which it faces. Village Roadshow does not anticipate that there will be any negative implications.”

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I’m confused, are you quoting someone, and if so, who, and from what source? It looks like that’s from a press release from Village Roadshow, but can’t quite tell.

Regardless, a few responses:

Slowing the speed is in no way draconian

When the speed of the connection is reduced such that the most basic aspects of the internet take ridiculously, and prohibitively long periods of time to work, then yes, that is draconian. Making the internet not work for someone is little better than revoking their access to it.

This is analogous to someone providing a toll road causing cars to crash and kill innocent people.

I see they blew clean past the ‘infringement=theft’ talking point and right on to ‘infringement=murder’, par for the course for someone comparing piracy to terrorism I suppose.

the number of account holders requesting independent review will be miniscule and no significant costs will be incurred in the administration of this independent review process…

In that case I imagine the rights holders, the one’s who the ISP’s would be acting as copyright cops for, would have no problem being the ones paying for the independent reviews(and to be truly fair it would have to be truly independent, no links whatsoever to the ‘creative’ industries)?

No? They want the ISP’s to shoulder that ‘no significant costs’, both the time, and the money parts? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

No specific legislation is required

Huge red flag here, ‘no specific legislation is required’ is pretty much PR speak for ‘We’ll determine the rules according to our wishes…’ as well as ‘… because we know if we made those wishes public ahead of time there would be massive public pushback against them’.

In relation to the proposal that an internet site must have the “dominant purpose” of infringing copyright, this phrase is both dangerous and totally unnecessary.

Now lets see, where have I seen this argument before… ah yes, the VCR, and by extension every single technology based upon, build upon, or that evolved from it.

They were wrong(suicidally so, give what a massive boon home recording/watching has been to the industry) when they tried to kill off the VCR, and they are wrong now when they try the exact same argument against internet sites.

it is essential that authorisation liability be clearly extended to service providers

Do the ISP’s know, are they in any position to know, what is and is not an authorized upload/post of something? No? Then as long as it remains that way, expecting them to somehow know, and act, as though they did is a ridiculous argument, at best.

if they take reasonable steps to avoid the infringing action

‘Reasonable steps’ differs quite largely though, based upon what position you’re coming from.

From the ISP’s perspective, being notified that a particular upload is infringing, and taking it down assuming the poster doesn’t contest that claim(at which point the ISP should have no liability, as at that point it should either go to the court or be dropped), likely sounds quite reasonable.

From the maximalist position on the other hand, ‘reasonable’ is more along the lines of ‘Everyone needs to do our job for us, for free, even though they lack the knowledge and information required to do the job accurately.’

So saying ‘reasonable steps’, especially after claiming above that no law is required(which means ‘reasonable’ is defined by those making the takedown claims, not by the law), is meaningless at best, since what is reasonable to one group, may not be so to another.

If the appropriate legal framework is established (unlike NZ), the best measure of whether those rights operate effectively and economically will be in the actual usage of those rights.

Circular logic at it’s finest.

‘How do you tell if the new laws are effective? Well they’re in place and being used. Why are they in place and being used? Well it’s because they are effective.’ And so on and so forth.

Village Roadshow does not anticipate that there will be any negative implications.

Of this I have no doubt. For those that see ‘collateral damage’ of sites pulled due to nothing more than an accusation, technologies slowed or killed off by the same as ‘acceptable losses’, I’m sure they don’t see any ‘negative implications’.

Anonymous Coward says:

He's right: ISP can magically erase piracy.

The ISPs can continue providing unlimited, pay-per-view access to a rich library of news, sports, and entertainment content. The movie, television, music and publishing industries, in partnership with the ruling administration, will happily provide lists of approved sites. Of course, the ISPs and search engines will need to proactively block websites, services, searches and search results that are not already approved for consumption by the aformentioned entities.

It’s so simple, it might just work!

Kronomex (profile) says:

And on a side note: the new Sin City film will be out here in Australia in a couple of weeks and the only cinema that appears to playing it in the whole state (apart from the fact that it’s a Village Roadshow…surprise, surprise) is a 2 1/2 to 3 hour drive from where I live. So guess what? I’ll be waiting for a decent copy to show up and then I’ll be downloading it. And Fuckwit Burke wonders why Australians resort to downloading.

Kronomex (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Yes, I’m somewhat short on patience with the fact that Village Roadshow and other chains dictate what we can watch in their theatres. Two examples:

The movie Priest (2011). Australians got to see it three and half months after the rest of the world. Taking in costs it was cheaper for me to get some friends in the US to post me a shiny new DVD copy several weeks BEFORE it hit the theatres here.

Riddick (2013). Village Cinemas where I live advertised the movie as “coming soon” then they cancelled it approximately a week before it was due to open. Then on the day before it was to originally open they announced it was it was back again. A week later and it was gone.

The three main chains here; Event, Hoyts, and Village Cinemas, do this sort of thing all the time. They were asked sometime ago why they keep these practices going. Their reply was basically, “Because we can.”

With regards to the upcoming Sin City movie (almost seven weeks after most of the rest of the world has already seen it): Yes, I would like to see it on the big screen but the costs involved – fuel, driving time, food, ticket cost about $28.00 (3D only) and other sundries make it waaayyy too expensive.

Anonymous Coward says:

Graham Burke if we apply his rules about piracy to him is a pirate. I’ll bet he takes copies of new and upcoming movies for him, his family and friends to watch. He would protest that it’s all part of his job but it still makes him a pirate because he is allowing others to see the content without them paying. I also wouldn’t be surprised that he has extra copies run off to pass onto friends outside his work sphere.He has taken streamed new movies from all over the world (50+% American content at a rough guess)and had private copies made. This makes him a pirate of the highest calibre. Will he protest? Of course he would because he’s as honest as the driven snow.

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