Film studios to become ‘police, judge, executioner’: Australia’s third largest ISP is being sued by several film studios and the Seven Network for enabling copyright infringement by failing to prevent its users from downloading pirated movies and TV shows.
iiNet, and the industry body, the Internet Industry Association, say ISPs should not be required to take action against any customers until they have been found guilty of an offence by the courts.
ISPs argue that, like Australia Post with letters, they are just providing a service and should not be forced to become copyright police.
Conversely, the TV and movie industry want ISPs to disconnect people it has identified as repeat infringers. There would be no involvement from police or the courts and the industry would simply provide the IP addresses of users they believe to be illegal downloaders.
“To shift the burden of proof and require that ISPs terminate access to users upon mere allegations of infringement would be incredibly harmful to individual internet users in Australia,” the online users lobby group Electronic Frontiers Australia said.
“Every citizen has a right of due process under the law and, when faced with having their internet service terminated, every citizen has the right to ask that the case against them be proven first.”
This is the first time that an ISP has been targeted in this way for simply providing internet connections that have been used, without their encouragement, to download material that infringes copyright. Previous successful legal actions, resulting in penalties of large fines, have been taken against sites and online services that directly encourage copyright infringement.
I’m very curious as to what sort of avenue of appeal there might be to have one’s name taken off the film/TV industry’s list of infringers should one be able to prove that they have got it wrong. At the moment it looks like they just want the ISPs and everybody else to take their word for it.
The fact that there wouldn’t be such a market for copyright-infringing downloads if the film/TV industry reformed its business model to acknowledge digital realities instead of creating artificial scarcity with unnecessary delays between releasing films onto DVD and broadcasting television shows in different countries is also worth examining. There is no need to delay when film canisters are no longer required to be physically shipped to other markets. Technology has changed, especially the technology available to consumers, and hanging on to traditional time periods between releases in various media and various markets just because it is traditional is guaranteed to cause consumer resentment.
I don’t personally do infringing downloads, although I confess that I do catch the occasional episode of favourite shows that others upload to YouTube when they first air overseas, so that I can discuss the latest episodes with other fans worldwide. As I always subsequently watch the same episode again when it airs here months later (in superior resolution), I feel absolutely zero guilt about this. The TV industry gets their expected eyeballs on their product from me.
There are lots of people out there like me, who are fans of shows with worldwide fandom communities who like to discuss them in online forums. Those of us in countries which traditionally delay TV broadcasts of popular US or British shows for months afterwards don’t want to miss out on these discussions when they are at their most current i.e. immediately after the show airs in its primary market. Why doesn’t the industry recognise that this demographic exists and offer a moderate-quality legal download, one that includes those commercials, as a separate income stream from the on-sale of their product to broadcasters in other markets? If they keep it only medium-resolution, so that the fans can get the narrative but not the best image quality, they’ll still get their sales of high-resolution DVDs to the diehard fans. Just ask Monty Python.
Crossposted at Larvatus Prodeo