Sunday, 10 July 2016 23:04

Post-election call by IA for repeal of Internet site-blocking laws Featured

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A UK court’s refusal to overturn a request for the blocking of sites in the country dealing in counterfeit luxury products has prompted Internet Australia to repeat its call for the repeal of Australia’s Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015 — the so-called site-blocking law 2015  passed by federal parliament in the middle of last year.

IA chief executive Laurie Patton says that while the UK Court of Appeal refused to overturn the request for blocking the sites, which is now subject to further appeal, “significantly, it sided with ISPs on the question of costs”.

IA, which includes Internet service providers and content service providers among its members, has long campaigned against Internet site-blocking, and Patton says that even though the UK court thought that the rights holders should pay, the case “opens up a can of worms when it comes to who should be able to insist on a site they don’t like being blocked”.

“International experience has shown that site-blocking is more effective as a PR exercise than a realistic solution. You close them down and they reappear in no time on another site and/or with another name – it’s called ‘whack-a-mole’,” Patton says, repeating statements he has made about site-blocking many times over the past year.

“What’s more, anyone with a modicum of technical knowledge can always find a way to access what they want, lawfully or unlawfully. So unless we take a hint from the UK we are going to inconvenience ISPs and see everyone’s Internet access fees increase as a consequence of the costs of implementing site-blocking, all for a bit of PR.”

Patton reconfirms IA’s belief that the best way to reduce unlawful downloading is to make content available and easily accessible at reasonable prices comparable with similar markets overseas, and he claims comments to media by Prime Minsiter Malcolm Turnbull  “Rights holders’ most powerful tool to combat online copyright infringement is making content accessible, timely, and affordable to consumers”  show he supports that view.

“It would be in the best interests of content creators if we all accepted that the main reason why most people unlawfully download is that they can’t get what they want through legitimate channels,” Patton says.

“There is ample research evidence that people are willing to pay if they can get the content they’re after. Some surveys have shown that the people who ‘pirate’ are also among the most active legal downloaders.”

Patton cites a recent report from the UK Government’s Intellectual Property Office which found that online copyright infringement is falling as Internet streaming services grow in popularity. It said, "The top factors that infringers said would encourage them to stop included making legal services cheaper (24%), if everything they wanted was available legally (20%), and if it was clearer what is legal and what is not (19%)"

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Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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