MPAA Sticks Its Nose Into Australia's Copyright Business: Warns Against Fair Use And Geo-Blocking Relief

from the moar-copyright dept

It’s been no secret that the MPAA has been sticking its nose in the copyright laws and enforcement of Australia for some time now. From pressuring government officials in the country to force ISPs to act as copyright police, to trying to keep Australian law as stuck in antiquity as it possibly could be, to trying to force the country to enforce American intellectual property law except the parts it doesn’t like, the MPAA nearly seems to think of itself as an official branch of the Australian government. Given the group’s nakedly hostile stance towards fair use, it should be no surprise that it doesn’t want to see that sort of law exported to other countries and has worked to actively prevent its installation Down Under.

It seems these efforts are not working, however, as the Australian government is currently entertaining not only adopting American-style fair use laws, but also adding exceptions to geo-blocking as well. The MPAA, as you’ll have already guessed, is not happy about this. This whole thing started with the government responding to its own Productivity Commission’s report on ways to make copyright law in the country better, so as to make Australian citizens more productive.

Two months ago the Government responded to these proposals. It promised to expand the safe harbor protections and announced a consultation on fair use, describing the current fair dealing exceptions as restrictive. The Government also noted that circumvention of geo-blocks may be warranted, in some cases.

The MPAA snapped into action, essentially suggesting in its absurd foreign trade barriers 2018 list that fair use, which the MPAA hates, works in America because our legal system has matured on copyright law in a way that Australia’s has not. Put another way, fair use is good enough for America, but Australia is not good enough for fair use.

“If the Commission’s recommendations were adopted, they could result in legislative changes that undermine the current balance of protection in Australia. These changes could create significant market uncertainty and effectively weaken Australia’s infrastructure for intellectual property protection,” the MPAA writes.

“Of concern is a proposal to introduce a vague and undefined ‘fair use’ exception unmoored from decades of precedent in the United States. Another proposal would expand Australia’s safe harbor regime in piecemeal fashion,” the group adds.

This is flatly absurd. The fair use model Australia is considering is essentially the American model, which has produced a boon of creative and educational output. What the MPAA is suggesting is that fair use should not be implemented because Australian courts haven’t produced enough caselaw to make room for it. How the country would ever pile up that caselaw without implementing fair use is an open question the MPAA doesn’t seem particularly interested in answering.

But its comments on geo-blocking relief are just plain weird. There is something of a “Nice economy you have there. It’d be a shame if something happened to it” ring to all of this.

“Still another would allow circumvention of geo-blocking and other technological protection measures. Australia has one of the most vibrant creative economies in the world and its current legal regime has helped the country become the site of major production investments. Local policymakers should take care to ensure that Australia’s vibrant market is not inadvertently impaired and that any proposed relaxation of copyright and related rights protection does not violate Australia’s international obligations,” the MPAA adds.

Based on comments like that, you would be forgiven for thinking that the MPAA had the best intentions for Australian economy at heart. Why that would be is another open question nobody seems to want to answer, likely because the obvious truth is that the MPAA doesn’t care about the Australian economy at all, it only cares about the Hollywood bottom line. It hates that fair use exists in America, so of course it doesn’t want to see it exported elsewhere. It loves exerting every kind of control over its product, so of course it doesn’t want geo-restriction laws to be relaxed.

Why the MPAA should have any say in how Australia governs itself is a mystery for the ages, but it sure seems to think its opinion on these things matters.

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Comments on “MPAA Sticks Its Nose Into Australia's Copyright Business: Warns Against Fair Use And Geo-Blocking Relief”

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26 Comments
PaulT (profile) says:

“Australia has one of the most vibrant creative economies in the world and its current legal regime has helped the country become the site of major production investments”

Investments into productions that Australians are often unable to see due to geo-blocking and the ridiculous outdated regional licencing that the industry still depends upon. If a movie is available on US Netflix but not the Australian one, the fact that the movie was shot in Australia doesn’t mean a damn thing to the Australian when it comes to bypassing artificial regional restrictions.

Again, the MPAA appear to be losing their shit over a situation they have directly created, and refuse to fix through the most obvious remedy (global licencing). It’s more profitable to use the law to dictate to people what they’re allowed to pay for.

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Circumvention of so called Geo-blocking is ALREADY LEGAL in Australia since it is neither unlawful nor illegal. The report wasn’t specifically on whether it was allowable or not, but on why the government should not even bother with contemplating legislative changes that would be absolutely unenforceable (we still work on the maxim that a law must be enforceable before it can be applied – old style jurisprudence for the win! 😉 )

The MPAA who are trying to somehow protect the vibrant Australian creative economy (of which is only 0.01% of Australia’s GDP.. yes Zero point zero one percent!) have no clue what they are talking about, especially when they keep yammering on about how things are illegal in their submission.. they aren’t (other than in specific provable beyond reasonable doubt circumstances).

Personally I, and a lot of others, think that being placed on the foreign trade barriers 2018 list is a step in the right direction and we are maybe (doubtful) not kowtowing to Hollywood interests over our own.

Anonymous Coward says:

This Broadchurch trailer is unavailable in your country due to geographical restrictions.

Yes, that’s right.

A BBC TRAILER for a show that was due to be shown on the Australian NATIONAL broadcaster in the following week could not be viewed on youtube, IN AUSTRALIA, due to geoblocking.

Drongos, with kangaroos in their top paddock, who are a sandwich short of a picnic, running the distribution of ADVERTISING material.

So glad that the MAFIAA are looking out for those convicts. Just don’t mention that those convicts came from Old Blighty.

Anonymous Coward says:

Your "mystery for the ages" solved!

>>> “Why the MPAA should have any say in how Australia governs itself is a mystery for the ages,”

1) MPAA members OWN the content in question, it’s their EXCLUSIVE PROPERTY as gov’ts recognize; WHEREVER in the world the content appears (legally or not), MPAA has an interest. — No matter how many times you clown pirates deny or ignore or violate that ownership, it remains true and enforceable in law.

2) Australia doesn’t govern itself. They’re disarmed serfs of the British tyrants. Distance and unimportance provide the only actual freedom. Bashing America is one of the few allowed outlets.

Now, I know from experience that incontrovertible facts won’t change your next piece, that’s the fun at Techdirt.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Your "mystery for the ages" solved!

So, your answer to any valid point in the article is to deny the autonomy of Australia’s government and to claim that a property owner’s wishes override the laws of any sovereign nation?

Sorry dude, you have an insane ignorant idiot in charge of your government, your OTT attempts at acting likewise will always come second place so long as an anonymous forum poster has less influence.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Your "mystery for the ages" solved!

“Autonomy” isn’t independence; you know full well that the gov’t is only formed with “permission” and the monarch has final say in all laws.

“PaulT”, you don’t assert or deny even a single fact, just have some incoherent gainsaying, and then as stated, attack America.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Your "mystery for the ages" solved!

No, I attacked you and the moron that more people in your country voted against than for. The country itself is OK, assuming it survives the damage applied during this term.

But, your “point” seems to be to maintain that a foreign collection of corporations should have the right to override any nation’s laws if they think their profits might be in danger (with no consideration to the wishes of local companies, it should be noted). Then, to add that whatever said corporations decide for Australia is OK because there’s some connection the UK left in the remnants of their independence.

Your inane rambling doesn’t need to be refute, it’s ridiculous on its face.

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Your "mystery for the ages" solved!

The monarch as you so weirdly assert has NEVER been in charge of Australian Laws ever since the first colony appeared on Australian Soil in 1788.

The British Parliament instead, due to the nature of the doctrine of reception at the time all laws were instantly transported from England to the Australian Colonies.. (this also created the ‘terra nulius’ problem.. but I digress)

In 1900 the British parliament (again without the monarch) created the Australian Constitution that still stands today and Federated all colonies into States and one Federal country. It wasn’t until 1931 though with Statute of Westminster that Australia was truly independent from specific laws from the UK. Though until 1986 and the Enactment of the “Australia Acts” in both the Australian Parliament and UK parliament (again the Queen has no part in this and instead is just a figurehead that rubber stamps all legislation) the Highyest Court was the Privy Council in England..

That is now fully stopped and our highest Court is the High Court of Australia. THe Federal Government is fully independent of Britain to the point that no politician is allowed to hold ANY allegiance to any country (including the UK) other than to Australia (a big thing at moment with us getting rid of a few that did.

Australia is fully Autonomous in law, social outlook and all other matters.

Whereas, the USA it seems is beholden to Trump Industries and maybe the Russians if the latest leak of the Paradise papers is to e believed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Your "mystery for the ages" solved!

So apparently corporations are ruining the world through their tyranny and should be avoided wherever possible…

And at the same time you demand privileges for the MPAA to do what they want in another country, citing that Australia is ruled by British tyrants as support for your claim?

Do you even bother putting brain cells together before you type what you spew?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Your "mystery for the ages" solved!

I’m sorry but there is no good reason for geo-blocking unless you are a totalitarian dictatorship trying to control how your population thinks and acts. And even then that is stretching the definition of “good reason” beyond what any sane person would recognize.

Honestly, if I’m paying $10 a month for Netflix, what does it matter whether I’m watching from the US, China, Australia, or any other country? And how is it fair for a citizen of one country to suddenly not be able to view content he is paying for just because he took a two week vacation overseas and now his IP is different?

And just because it’s their ‘EXCLUSIVE PROPERTY’, doesn’t mean they get absolute and total control over it. If I buy a movie on a disk, who are they to tell me when, where, and how I watch it? If I watch it alone, not their concern, if I watch it with friends and family, not their concern. If I don’t like looking at the top half of movie and paint over the TV so I don’t have to see it, also not their problem. If I want to quote movie lines and use it in a Youtube review, not their problem.

This is all called fair use and denying people this basic ability is dumb, stupid, idiotic, and ultimately doomed to fail because if you try people will essentially give you the finger and do it anyway because it’s dumb to try and control things to that degree.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Your "mystery for the ages" solved!

“Honestly, if I’m paying $10 a month for Netflix, what does it matter whether I’m watching from the US, China, Australia, or any other country?”

Because the studios have decided that they can get more money by piecing the world into bite-sized chunks and forcing everyone to only consume what’s prescribed for their location. They’ve also gone completely overboard with think, having gone from 6 regions (DVD) or 3 (Blu) to as many regions as there are countries. Then wonder why people who cross borders regularly notice the difference.

Unfortunately, they are also very bad at this, leaving a huge discrepancy between availability. Your location matters because they only licence something like 1/3 of the content to Australia as they do to the US, but may force them to pay more. It matters because while they licensed Star Trek Discovery to Netflix outside of North America, CBS want to force Americans to subscribe to their own substandard streaming service for the same price they pay Netflix. It matters because giving people an actual choice might mean they choose what they actually want, instead of what the studio want to sell.

They can’t offer inferior service for superior prices if people can venture outside their region, so they need to block people from stopping them from fleecing everybody. They can’t block people who are physically travelling from accessing their Netflix catalogue in their current country (yet but you can guarantee they’re working on ways to force tourists to resubscribe), but they can try to stop people doing this virtually.

But, hey, the MPAA’s best defenders can apparently only offer “the MPAA’s wishes override sovereign laws and Australia’s not got a real government anyway” as their defence. Pretty pathetic.

Anonymous Coward says:

“trying to keep Australian law as stuck in antiquity”

Hey, that’d probably be a good thing! Considering back in antiquity there was no such thing as copyright! And even if they only keep them stuck a couple hundred years ago, copyright would only last 14 years with a one time extension of 14 years, nothing is automatically covered by copyright unless registered, and audio and visual recordings aren’t covered because such things didn’t exist!

Anonymous Coward says:

Interesting …

I was thinking they might use Fair Dinkum rather than Fair Use to describe such action(s) and looked it up to see if it was applicable. I found this article where a Delta flight attendant thought it was swearing, was not stopped by other employees and called the cops on the guy. Amazing!

I would link, but linking is now a crime – so go find it yourself. And it is Fox …

bshock says:

If Australia wanted the most “vibrant creative econom[y] in the world,” it would do away with copyrights altogether. You have to be an egotistical idiot not to acknowledge that creativity and sharing are inseparably intertwined. All artists stand on the shoulders of their predecessors. All art is derived from something else. Sharing is culture, sharing is creativity, sharing is the great strength of the human species.

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