Aust copyright proposal a failure - Turnbull
"Unanimous" opposition to the Australian government's proposed copyright law changes will force it back to the drawing board to tackle online piracy, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull says.
Representatives from both sides of the online piracy debate - including the telecommunications companies and rights holders - have warned the changes to copyright law outlined in the government's discussion paper on online piracy are too broad and could have negative unintended consequences.
Turnbull hosted a lively public forum in Sydney on Tuesday night that included panellists from the film and television sectors, internet service providers and consumer groups.
The government has proposed creating a new legal framework - known as "extended authorisation liability" - to make internet service providers more accountable for their customers' illicit downloading.
"What is being canvassed in the discussion paper around authorisation liability - that is essentially the law that makes a person liable for the copyright infringement of another - those changes, I'd say there's been unanimity in that everyone has criticised them and found them inadequate from one level or another," Turnbull told the forum.
Pay television provider Foxtel says in its submission that the proposal is "broader than it needs to be" while Music Rights Australia warns it "will not be effective" and risks creating greater legal uncertainty for all parties.
The Communications Alliance, representing the major telecommunications companies, warns the proposal would give too much power to rights holders and could see schools, universities and libraries punished for their visitors' illicit downloading.
Telstra executive director Jane van Beelen told the forum that there do not need to be any changes to copyright law. Rather, ISPs and rights holders should work together on a voluntary scheme to discourage internet users from infringing copyright.
While opposed to the wording of the government's proposed changes, rights holders such as Village Roadshow and Foxtel say a legal incentive is needed to encourage ISPs to tackle online piracy.
Foxtel CEO Richard Freudenstein said it would become uneconomic to make expensive, high-quality programs unless illicit downloading is tackled.
"There will be a lot more cats on skateboards; we'll have a lot less Game of Thrones," he said.
"If we sit and wait, and we don't introduce some schemes soon, there won't be an industry.
"It is really expensive [to produce moves and television programs] and if there aren't business models that can make that work, if we're relying on advertising-supported YouTube to support the content industry, it is going to be a very, very, very different type of content."
Village Roadshow co-chairman Graham Burke, who advocates slowing internet speeds for repeated illicit downloaders, admitted that film companies need to release movies quicker and cheaper to discourage pirating.
"We made one hell of a mistake with The Lego Movie," he said. "It was an Australian film, we financed it together with Warner Brothers, it was made here in King's Cross. Because it was so important we held it for a holiday period. It was a disaster. No more."
Village Roadshow will now release movies on the same day and date as in the United States, Burke said.
Australian Performing Rights Association CEO Brett Cottle said that despite the availability of affordable online music streaming services such as Spotify an estimated 3 to 3.5 million Australians use torrent services at least once a month to download music without authorisation.
But a study commissioned by Spotify, released on Tuesday, found music piracy had declined by 20 per cent in Australia thanks largely to the availability of legal streamings services.
- Fairfax Media Australia