Friday, 01 May 2015 17:06

Internet Society speaks to Senate Committee on Copyrights and wrongs

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The Internet Society of Australia CEO Laurie Patton has spoken to the Senate Standing Committee looking at the Copyright Amendment Bill of 2015, with Patton’s comments reported in full within.

Patton, and the chair of the society's policy committee, Holly Raiche, appeared before the Senate Standing Committees on Legal and Constitutional Affairs inquiry into the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015

Patton introduced himself, noted Raiche by his side and proceeded to make the points that there was no evidence the bill’s amendment would work, that there was a risk of unintended consequences, that a better solution would be the make content available that is current available overseas and to use the TPP negotiations to ban geoblocking.

Patton’s comments can be downloaded in PDF format (PDF Link), but we have reprinted his comments in full below.

Opening remarks from the CEO of the Internet Society of Australia - Laurie Patton - to the Senate Standing Committees on Legal and Constitutional Affairs inquiry into the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015

Good morning.

My name is Laurie Patton. I'm the chief executive of the Internet Society of Australia. Appearing with me today is the chair of our policy committee, Holly Raiche.

We thank the committee for this opportunity to present the views of our members in relation to this very important inquiry.

We are the Australian chapter of the worldwide Internet Society.

Our mission is to promote the development of the Internet for the benefit of the entire community; including business, educational, government and private Internet users. As such, we are the peak organisation representing the interests of everyone who uses the Internet.

On that theme I should note that we have been grouped in today's agenda under "Service Providers". Now while a good proportion of our members are owners and operators of Internet service companies the Internet Society's remit goes well beyond representing their interests. Indeed many of our service provider members are also members of the Communications Alliance or AIMIA. However, their support for the Internet Society, as is the case with our non-service provider members, is primarily about the greater good that flows from having an open, accessible and trusted Internet.

Our members have a range of views about the way in which Australia can best benefit from the Internet, however all believe in the fundamentally positive role that the Internet is playing.

Our directors and our members hold significant roles in Internet-related organisations and this enables us to provide expert policy and technical advice to Internet user groups, governments and regulatory authorities.

And as we have done recently with the inquiry into the Data Retention Bill we would be pleased to offer our resources to the committee and to the Government, now or when you have finished the public consultation period.

We believe that trust is at the heart of maintaining an open and accessible Internet. This is extremely important, both for individuals who use it for their private purposes and as the engine that drives the modern digitally enabled economy so vital to Australia's future.

Any laws that affect the public's confidence in using the Internet need to be carefully drafted and continuously reviewed.

We are concerned that ad hoc legislative changes designed to address specific issues such as site blocking are at odds with good policy making because they risk unintended consequences that can impact on the trust and the efficiency the underpins the Internet.

We believe that blocking access to international websites will be largely ineffective, being relatively easy to bypass. The costs to the Internet industry - and ultimately passed on to consumers - will be significant, disproportionate and unjustifiable.

A few years back when the then government was contemplating Internet Filtering legislation the Internet Society, among others, argued that the proposed approach had the potential to slow down people's Internet services to an unacceptable degree with no guarantee of success.

In the case of the legislation that you are currently considering the same situation presents itself.

In addition to the technical concerns we have raised in our submission there is a serious policy issue to be considered; and that relates to the way in which the Internet is governed for the benefit of all users, and in this case especially as it relates to Australian Internet consumers.

The Internet Society believes that the way to deal with Internet copyright infringement is to ensure, that to the maximum extent possible, content is made available in a timely manner and at reasonable prices - which is to say there should be no price gouging.

When DVD players were first available here they cost around 2000 dollars and would only play DVD's sold in this market. Anyone who went the US and brought back a stack of DVD's that were a good deal cheaper over there soon discovered that they wouldn't play here. This was the original form of content geoblocking.

It was no coincidence that the DVD players first sold here was manufactured, for the most part, by the same companies that held the content rights, or their close associates.

Eventually, of course, DVD players from independent manufacturers came onto the market that were a fraction of the cost and would play any old DVD.

What we are seeing with the Internet delivery of content is simply a backward step to geoblocking that has caused Australians to pay inflated prices and to wait unnecessarily for content to become available.

The appropriate policy direction that we recommend would see the Government acting in the interests of Australian consumers. We believe that in negotiations over the Transpacific Partnership agreement Australia should insist on an end to geoblocking and a requirement, as part of the new international trading arrangements being introduced, that content supplied over the Internet must be released at the same time and at comparable prices across all TPP participating countries.

If this approach is taken there will be no need for this legislation, which we contend will likely not achieve its stated aim but will detract from the overall effectiveness of the Internet to the disadvantage of all Australians.

The Internet Society acknowledges the intellectual property rights of the content producers.

We also acknowledge the market changes occurring here. That's the answer. Make the content available. If this had occurred much earlier we wouldn't be here.

Thank you.

LAURIE PATTON

Chief Executive Officer | Internet Society of Australia


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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