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Monday, 21 March 2016 12:11

Patton fires broadside on piracy back at Creative Content Australia

By
Internet Australia CEO Laurie Patton Internet Australia CEO Laurie Patton

The tit for tat war of words between Internet Australia and Creative Content Australia continues, with IA chief Laurie Patton repeating his assertion the organisation remains to be convinced that site-blocking really works as a means for combatting Internet piracy.

In responding to Creative Content Executive Director Lori Flekser, Patton had earlier said: “We do not condone unlawful downloading. However, we draw the line at unworkable solutions like site-blocking because they interfere with the open and trusted essential nature of the Internet. They cause operational issues that can lead to interruptions in service, like the ASIC case a few years ago where they inadvertently put 250,000+ innocent sites offline for several days."

In her criticisms of Patton and Internet Australia, Flekser had disagreed with Patton’s comments about the workability of the sited blocking solution, asserting that “Site-blocking in not an unworkable solution.  It has been adopted by 32 countries – 28 of which are EU member states.  13 countries have successfully had site-blocking cases processed through the courts.”

But, Patton has again responded strongly to comments by Flekser as published by iTWire.

In a statement issued to iTWire today, Patton said IA remains to be convinced that site-blocking really works. “Overseas experience shows that when individual ‘piracy’ websites are closed down either they or an equivalent just pop up again not long afterwards – it’s an exercise often referred to as wack a mole.”

In defending his stance on piracy, Patton points to a Federal Government survey last year that found heavy ‘pirates’ are often also heavy downloaders of paid-for content. “This suggests that many people are unlawfully downloading stuff they can't otherwise obtain lawfully. Hence our proposition that the preferred solution, as Prime Minister Turnbull himself has argued, is for content to be made readily available and do it at reasonable prices”. IA also points to reports that ‘piracy’ has already started to decline with the arrival of the Netflix, Presto and Stan SVOD sites.

Flekser had earlier been critical of Patton’s comment that the simple solution to most of Australia's unlawful downloading is “simply for the rights holders to make stuff more easily available (which is happening with Netflix, Presto and Stan) and stop price gouging.”

“Access and price are not the answer to diminishing piracy.  If we look at the music industry, which offers literally hundreds of sites offering music at low or NO cost, the number of infringing downloads grew in 2015,” Flekser stated.

In responding to CCA today, Patton told ITWire he’s confident Australians are well aware of the facts and he didn’t need to do a “point by point rebuttal of what was a rather long-winded justification that just doesn’t really stack up”.

“CCA claims we ‘trot out tired and oft-repeated justifications for piracy’. This is simply not true. In fact we have consistently supported the Intellectual Property Rights of content producers.

“For my part I have been a television producer and media executive for much of my career and any suggestion that we are condoning IP rights violations is rather offensive, especially in the light of the tenor of constructive debate we have tried to set.”

Patton stressed that IA stands by its objection to the average Australian being characterised as rampant 'Internet pirates' despite a lack of any concrete evidence that unlawful downloading of content is actually causing the rights holders significant financial losses in Australia. “Even its (Creative Content) most recent statement did not include evidence of financial losses. The point is just glossed over,” Patton added.

“IA also stands by its assertion that Australians have traditionally and consistently been charged more for DVD’s. Anyone who has been to America over the last 20 years knows that’s a fact. Likewise, if you’ve been to the cinema in the US you’ll know that their prices are way below ours.

“CCA’s reference to research that charts the average cinema ticket price across all OECD countries didn’t convince IA. That just shows that OECD countries are also subject to ‘geoblocking’. We compared our prices with the US, which is where most of the content originates, not a range of largely non-English speaking countries.”

Patton stresses that IA has reiterated that it accepts unlawful downloading is an important issue, maintaining it is “keen to see if it can find some common ground with the rights holders”.

“We have sought on a number of occasions to talk to Graham Burke (the new chair of CCA) but have never received a response. I have also written to Lori Flekser (CCA chief executive) seeking a meeting. We remain keen to meet with them.”

Patton also says in today’s statement:

“While IA has many ISP’s among its membership it is the peak body representing all Internet users and maintains that it is consumers who will end up paying increased access fees to cover the site-blocking costs. IA's argument continues to be that site-blocking interferes with the physical operations of the Internet and is likely to have adverse technical consequences with flow-on effects. The case, a couple of years ago, where ASIC inadvertently put 250,000+ sites offline for several days is one case cited by IA.

“We are concerned about the cost to ISP’s in performing the site-blocking (in the same way as we are concerned with ISP’s complying with their Data Retention Act costs). We note the recent abandoning of the 'three strikes' warning scheme due to the fact that the rights holders didn't want to pay the ISP's costs. That suggests to us that the rights holders can't be losing all that much money.”  

“In the end, we need to educate people that unlawful downloading is wrong, not punish them. If we want to punish anyone, let's make it the ‘pirate’ site operators. In the meantime, we maintain that it is up to the rights holders to prove that they are losing money and, if they are, to come up with workable solutions that everyone can support. That’s why we say, on behalf of the ISP’s and the bulk of Internet users, #WeAreNotTheProblem.”

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Peter Dinham

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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