Village Roadshow Promises To Mete Out Its Brand Of Justice As Inequitably As Possible
from the tipping-scales dept
Village Roadshow, an Australian film distributor, has always been something of a strange anomaly. Like many others in the copyright industries, the organization has embraced copyright trolling as a business model, even touting the kind of trolling-automation that has since seen so much backlash over its inherent collateral damage toll. On the other hand, Village Roadshow was also one of the few film distributors I’ve seen actually come out and state that windowed releases are really, really stupid. On the other, other hand, the distributor subsequently went ahead with windowed releases anyway.
Ambiguity appears to be somewhat in Village Roadshow’s DNA. So, perhaps it isn’t entirely surprising that upon announcing plans to take Australia back to the early 2000s by suing individuals for piracy, the company also made sure to inform the public that it will do so with almost perfect inequity.
Let’s start with Village Roadshow’s plan, which is essentially to ape the RIAA from the days of peer to peer filesharing. It was a strategy, it should be noted, that was dropped because it wasn’t particularly effective. But that isn’t going to stop Village Roadshow from giving it another go.
Many thousands of people were fined and the campaign raised awareness, but it did nothing to stop millions of file-sharers who continue to this day.
That’s something that Village Roadshow co-chief Graham Burke now wants to do something about. He says his company will effectively mimic the RIAA’s campaign of 14 years ago and begin suing Internet pirates Down Under. He told AFR that his company is already setting things up, ready to begin suing later in the year.
This plan will rely on ISPs to give up customer information, which will likely lead to a fight in Australian court. While the outcome of that fight is uncertain, it can be reliably claimed that what Village Roadshow actually wants is for pirates to pay fines to not go to court. This reads like classic copyright trolling, except that village Roadshow is making a great deal of noise about being prepared for actual lawsuits, while most copyright trolls avoid the courtroom at all (literal) costs. That won’t win them many fans in the public, if the American experience is anything to go on.
It’s perhaps in anticipation of that, however, that Village Roadshow commits its worst sin, although I am sure it thought it was going to win points with the following.
“We will identify people who are stealing our product, we will ask them do they have ill health or dire circumstances, and if they do and undertake to stop, we’ll drop the case,” Burke says.
While being upfront about such a policy has its pros and cons, Burke is also reducing his range of targets, particularly if likes to be seen as a man of his word, whenever those words were delivered. In March 2016, when he restated his intention to begin suing pirates, he also excluded some other groups from legal action.
“We don’t want to sue 16-year-olds or mums and dads,” Burke said. “It takes 18 months to go through the courts and all that does is make lawyers rich and clog the court system. It’s not effective.”
This says everything you need to know about how closely Village Roadshow’s plan intersects with actual justice. The concept of real justice rarely makes full exemptions for teenagers and parents, never mind the poor or ill. In criminal cases, sentencing guidelines may take those circumstances into consideration, but Burke is essentially saying that teenagers and the poor or ill get a free pass on copyright infringement. I am sure he thinks he’s going to win points of sympathy from the public with this stance, and perhaps he will, but he certainly should not. Either this plan is a valid form of combat against infringement or it isn’t, full stop. If your justice can’t survive the PR surrounding having it meted out against a poor teenager, then it isn’t justice at all.
It’s rent-seeking from those that can afford it, based, as always, on the flimsiest of evidence and predicated on the public being scared of actual lawsuits that Village Roadshow may actually want to file. That isn’t justice. It’s gross.