More carrot, less stick: Clare's plan to reduce Australian piracy

More carrot, less stick: Clare's plan to reduce Australian piracy

Summary: Labor Shadow Communications Minister Jason Clare has said that content providers like Foxtel need to encourage users to find legal methods to get content, rather than asking governments to punish those who use BitTorrent.


Shadow Communications Minister and self-professed Game of Thrones fan Jason Clare has called on Foxtel to make it easier for fans to gain access to the show without needing a subscription to the company's full pay TV service.

(Image: Josh Taylor/ZDNet)

This season's Game of Thrones will be exclusive to pay TV network Foxtel in Australia, with the episodes no longer appearing on iTunes after they have aired on the network. Australia is already one of the biggest users per capita of BitTorrent for downloading TV shows, and HBO's decision to grant exclusive rights to the content to Foxtel has already been met with criticism from some fans who say that they will turn to BitTorrent in order to see the show when it airs in the US.

Last week, Attorney-General George Brandis indicated that the federal government is considering a crackdown on online copyright infringement, including blocking infringing websites such as The Pirate Bay, and implementing a graduated response scheme that would punish users who are repeatedly caught infringing on copyright.

Speaking at the Tech Leaders forum in Queensland today, Clare said that Brandis had "backflipped" after the election, after stating that the Coalition had no policy on it before the election, and that he isn't convinced that such a regime would work.

"There's little evidence it has worked when applied overseas," he said, adding that the question of who should pay for it remains unaddressed.

"Who should carry the burden of implementing this, and the costs? And why should ISPs carry the burden?"

Clare said that a regime that punishes infringers without addressing the underlying cause for copyright infringement would not be effective.

"The better way to do this would be to get people to work collaboratively together," he said.

"I've always found that carrots work better than sticks."

He said he hopes that Foxtel's upcoming Presto video-on-demand service would help address that underlying issue.

"You've got to make it easy for people to access the programs that they want to, and Presto could be a good way to do that," he said.

"I think it is up to content providers to provide new ways for people to get access legally to the content they want to watch."

Clare admitted that he recently brought up the issue of Game of Thrones with Foxtel executives.

"I said 'you guys have got a problem here, because people are going to get it elsewhere. People like me who love that TV show, they want to get access to it. As soon as it comes out we want to watch it'," he said.

"If you're not a Foxtel customer at the moment, you don't want to subscribe to Foxtel, then forget it."

He said that Foxtel understands that.

"I think they realised this is an opportunity to get more customers, and if they don't change their business model to meet the needs of people who love programs like this, then they're going to lose customers, and people are going to get it another way."

When asked about the lockup of the Game of Thrones series on Foxtel, Neil Gane, a spokesperson for the Australian Screen Association lobby group that represents film and television companies, told ZDNet that content providers have numerous online legal methods for viewers to access content.

"The creative communities have worked hard to provide safe, secure, and fair-priced online distribution sites, and these are the sites where most people choose to access their commercial entertainment content from. There are currently more than 20 online services making movie and TV content available to Australian audiences," he said.

In his speech today, Clare did not throw his support completely behind the Australian Law Reform Commission's proposal for a fair use system for the Copyright Act, but said that on his recent visit to Silicon Valley, he heard compelling arguments for the proposal from a number of tech giants.

"Amazon, Yahoo, and Google made a strong case for us to develop the same legal framework. They made the point to me that laws like this helped to facilitate the development of things like search engines and cloud computing," he said.

On the National Broadband Network (NBN), Clare said that instead of the new government pushing NBN Co to speed up the rollout, under Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, the targets have been reduced to make it easier for NBN Co to meet them.

"It is important to understand what is happening here. This is all about politics. NBN Co has failed to meet its construction targets in the past," he said.

"Malcolm Turnbull is determined to make sure that this doesn't happen on his watch, so he is lowering the bar so low that it is impossible not to jump over it."

Josh Taylor travelled to the Gold Coast as a guest of MediaConnect.

Topics: Piracy, Government, Government AU, Australia


Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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  • Some People Will Do It Anyway

    I know quite a few people who pirate things available for free on Hulu/Crackle, etc.

    Something about 'not wanting to support the corporations'

    Takeaway: Some people will pirate no matter how easy you make it to acquire things legally, often for nebulous reasons.
    luke mayson
  • Offer better options

    Content owners should be completely responsible for protection of their content. First the copyright legislation shoulkd be changed so if a show/film/song has been used on a free to air or pay TV channel anywhere the down loads are legal we live in a interconnected world. The content owners need to stop blocking cheaper alternatives ie NETFLIX etc at a low monthly access charge say $20 to $30 for movies and shows, come on $30 for a movie they have to be kidding.
    Bottom line the content owners greed is the problem here and Brandis better watch out as a political party to look after consumers will trump a party that looks after greedy foreign interests.
  • So much for my subscription

    For the last few seasons I was getting GoT via iTunes the day after it aired. Fantastic! I could watch the episode anytime I liked, no ads, all was happiness. Then some dumb-ass executive twit who thinks he knows better than anyone else in the world, is now denying me (and many other people) the chance to pay for legal access to the show. Guess I'm going to find another download source, and it appears it'll be a not so legal one.

    Movie/TV executives - instead of listening to idiots like the MPAA, try listening to your customers instead. You'll learn something new.
  • Jason Clare = right idea!

    Like where this guy is coming from.

    20 on-line sources providing content to Australia?


    Tell me just ONE which:

    1> Provides movies at $5-$10 per movie to BUY.
    2> Doesn't use streaming. I want to put downloads on my NAS.
    3> Provides full HD 1920x1080 Movies with DTS or DD5.1
    4> Allows me to play these movies on all my devices. SmartTV, Computer, Android and iOS tablets without penalties, and any time I want.

    Where is this?
  • I'd buy it rather than have to wait.

    If I buy it though, I want to be able to watch it when I want to watch it. Not when Foxtel wants me to watch it.

    I also agree with the above post about streaming. Australia doesn't have a viable internet network for streaming content. It's slow and because of that, prices for decent download quotas are fairly high. Unless you're with Jiva or TPG, streaming really isn't much of an option for most families.
  • They really don't get it.

    Ok, let's follow this through. If the government starts blocking/monitoring downloads that will drive a lot of people to programs like TOR. Then any pretense of control they have will be lost. Stick doesn't work. Carrot: the steam model used for selling games has revolutionised the way we purchase video games (that were once downloaded almost as much). Why isn't the same model transferred to the video/music industry? iTunes is a complete rip off, and most services put so many restrictions on your paid download, it defeats the purpose. When stores charge $30 for new release dvds thats not much of an option either. People, this isn't new. I grew up video taping tv programs off the television. How is this much different? People used to make mixed tapes, or tape an album for a friend. The industry still goes strong. All it is, is just a bunch of very rich, Rupert Murdoch type greedy prick billionaires grindingly in need of more money. To be honest, if Fox collapsed as a company, I wouldn't shed a tear.
    Bobby Quine
  • whats fair?

    It's already come to light Australians pay over inflated prices from companies such as Apple, Microsoft and Fox, free to air TV is sometimes 2 seasons behind the rest of the world and movie releases can take up to a year to be released in Australian cinemas and sometimes not at all. I don't think bitorrent, utorrent etc... are they way to go but until the consumer is treated fairly and respected, what other choice is there.
  • "fair-priced"??

    Stick your "let them eat cake" comment where the sun don't shine Mr Gane, $1488 a year to watch Game of Thrones is NOT a "fair price" you idiot...
  • ISP"s

    This is ludicrous! It's like telling gas/petrol stations that they will be liable for any car that get's a speeding ticket who filled their tank at their gas station.......rofl ;>}