NBN should be an anti-piracy bastion: News Limited CEO

NBN should be an anti-piracy bastion: News Limited CEO

Summary: The NBN should take an anti-piracy stance, according to the News Limited CEO.


News Limited CEO Kim Williams has called for the National Broadband Network (NBN) to be used as a platform to police piracy.

Williams was speaking yesterday at the Australian International Movie Convention. He railed against the number of Australians who are illegally downloading films and television shows as they air in the US and the UK, calling it "scumbag theft".

He referenced a report by the Intellectual Property Awareness Foundation, which said that 37 per cent of Australians have admitted to downloading material illegally, and said sources have estimated that as much as 65 per cent of all material downloaded from BitTorrent is illegal.

Australia needs to do something about the "digital kleptomaniacs", he said, before the NBN opens the floodgates.

"It is getting worse, and will get even worse still once everyone in Australia has access to super-speed broadband through the National Broadband Network — some say internet traffic will quadruple between now and 2016," he said.

He said that the content industry could play its part by providing education for users who don't realise it's illegal to download pirated content, and by making sure that legal content is available. However, he also called on the government to make sure that laws are in place to protect the copyright industry from theft before the NBN rolls out.

"In the most general terms, all of us — content providers, media companies, ISPs [internet service providers] and especially legislators — need to recognise that we live in a new era. We live and do business in the digital age, but our copyright laws continue to exist in the analog era and the paper age. Our mindset for dealing with this problem simply has to change."

The concept of policing digital content has been tested in recent years, with the high-profile court battle between the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT) and ISP iiNet. AFACT had alleged that iiNet authorised its users to infringe copyright over its network. However, the case, which went all the way to the High Court of Australia, was won by iiNet.

NBN Co is one organisation that needs to take responsibility for illegal downloading, Williams said, likening the broadband network to a highway.

"Whilst everyone who rides on a highway has a duty to drive responsibly, the highway owners also have a duty to drivers to keep their roads safe and in good condition. The same principle applies.

"Especially because it is a public system, I believe the NBN has a special duty of care to provide a safe super highway for our digital economy. Just like a solicitor-general is expected to act as a model litigant in the legal system, a publicly created NBN should be expected to act as a model digital network — setting the ethical, legal and commercial standards for all else to follow."

NBN Co should be included in any code that is created to battle privacy, and should be obligated to take reasonable steps to stop piracy, he believes.

Williams also tried to address the arguments excusing illegal downloading. He ridiculed the oft-repeated argument that it's impossible to purchase some content legally, saying that more and more content is becoming available online.

"I reject the assertion that there is any sort of shortage of digital content. Even if there were, it constitutes a very poor defence," he said.

"'Your honour, I did smash that window, and I did steal that piece of jewellery, because the shop was shut, and anyway they were asking too much for it.'

"My response is an unequivocal 'Take him down, constable.'"

In terms of being available legally in a timely fashion, he said that cinema releases are often now being conducted simultaneously across the globe, and that new episodes of TV shows are available for purchase on Foxtel OnDemand, although many Australians complain about having to pay for a full package when they only want to watch one show.

Topics: Piracy, Broadband, Telcos, NBN, Australia

Suzanne Tindal

About Suzanne Tindal

Suzanne Tindal cut her teeth at ZDNet.com.au as the site's telecommunications reporter, a role that saw her break some of the biggest stories associated with the National Broadband Network process. She then turned her attention to all matters in government and corporate ICT circles. Now she's taking on the whole gamut as news editor for the site.

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  • Superhighway

    "Whilst everyone who rides on a highway has a duty to drive responsibly, the highway owners also have a duty to drivers to keep their roads safe and in good condition. The same principle applies."

    Exactly, NBN Co. should look after the fibre and network switches etc, but it's not their job to police the content being delivered across the network. If anything, it's the ISP (who sells the service to the end-user) who is a better candidate to do this, though again, it's not their job. NBN Co. is the equivalent of the Department of Transport, not the Police.
  • Must suck to be so stupid

    Kim Williams is a douche bag and is a perfect example of why news papers should die. No wonder why news papers are in decline with idiots like this at the top.

    The only thing that he is right about is that "our copyright laws continue to exist in the analog era and the paper age. Our mindset for dealing with this problem simply has to change". Apart from that the rest of his arguments don't even make sense!
    • Exactly...

      Exactly why News Ltd have this redneck, posse mentality in relation to the NBN...
  • When You See Every Opportunity As a Threat ...

    ... it’s time to hang up your spurs and leave the business to the younger folks.
  • Perhaps a change?

    Perhaps it's not copyright law that needs to change, but the way business is done?

    For example, with Free to air TV here, we always seem to get shows after the season is concluded elsewhere, if we get them at all. When we do get them, they're cut further than is necessary, or locked to specific providers (Game of Thrones, for example, is only available on Foxtel) and sometimes shown out of order.

    Perhaps if the content was shown within a week of original airing, in order, and without being cut further for even more adverts, I'd think some people would stop downloading content and start watching it, or recording it on their TV for later viewing.
    • The advertising is getting a bit much these days.

      I barely watch any TV, because as mentioned elsewhere I go and buy the DVDs. However, I have noticed on the TV that a program will fade out mid-sentence for an ad-break. Am I revealing my age in stating that I remember when the ABC would schedule programs for 2:37 1/2, and actually get it right?

      With digital broadcasting where every single frame is numbered, it's very simple to set up your programs with the ad-breaks in the correct places accurate to 1/25 of a second, yet when watching I would swear it was some amateur vision switcher at the console.
  • Copyright, Patents are restrictive trade practices.

    It's about time that copyright should only extend to Authors/Producers of copyright works and should only exsist for 10 years from the date of publication, the sale of copyright to publishers and distributors should end the copyright. Smilarly with patents should only have a 10 year life.
    Copyright has become a restictive practice that inhibits the free market by monopolies, time to end this practice. Screw Limited News.
    Kevin Cobley
  • This is very simple

    Make movie and TV shows available globally digitally at the same time at reasonable prices. I would say movies at $20-$30 in full HD 5.1 Quality, and TV shows at about $3 per episode (also full HD 5.1) or the full box set again at about $20-$30.

    Make it so that I can register the devices that I own, and make sure all these files can play back on all my devices. I DO NOT CARE if I cannot give copies away to my family/friends/others so I don't mind SOME form of DRM, but my household with all it's devices must be covered.


    I think a LOT of people will buy bucketloads. I think the Movie creators/distributors/produces/directors/actors will make bucketloads.

    Just need to get out of the old Analog/80's mentality themselves instead of giving it such a tight grip.
  • Piracy, the NBN & Kim Williams

    Now there's an eclectic mix.

    A company that would love to see the NBN, the FTTH version in any case, killed off by an incoming Coalition government asking that a government protect its interests if the roll out continues and the "flood gates" are opened.

    I am the least of friendly individuals towards News Ltd/ News Corp. but I have to say that I agree with Mr. Williams. There are far too many people currently and there will be tenfold that many that will be providing content that needs the FTTH network for them to flourish and that will depend on protection from piracy.

    To those that would attack Mr. Williams and the company he represents; I empathise, however, his company and the one he left, Foxtel, will be ones that will suffer with the advent of the NBN. The competition they are most likely to face will ensure they cannot freely charge what they wish for a monopoly service as they currently do with their Pay TV service.

    You will not longer have to pay for a "package" unless you choose to. If you do, that package will contain what you do want to watch, not what a company determines your 'hamper' ought to contain.

    The one thing you should be obliged to do is pay for what you watch unless it is provided free intentionally, by those producing the content.

    If the NBN is able to be configured with the ability to detect piracy, (that's a nice word that invites romantic images of swashbuckling buccaneers on the high blue seas when what it really means is THEFT), then I think it should be done. Stealing from a hard working creative person is a crime and I am sure none of us would like to see part of our wages being stolen by individuals hiding behind a computer with ideals that have no consideration for what is ours.
    Rubens Camejo
    • Can't agree with this sorry

      "To those that would attack Mr. Williams and the company he represents; I empathise, however, his company and the one he left, Foxtel, will be ones that will suffer with the advent of the NBN."

      I don't agree, with the NBN, Foxtel has the chance to morph into an IPTV provider and greatly expand on it's potential customer base. The fact that they see the NBN as a threat and not an opportunity just shows how moribund the company has become.
      • Foxtel will suffer

        Yes, of course for will morph into an IPTV company, they're half way there.

        The following link is what they fear: http://www.smh.com.au/business/media-and-marketing/talks-may-signal-new-vision-for-afl-coverage-20120819-24go8.html?skin=text-only

        Fox Sports is Fox's customer driver, without it Foxtel would be lucky to have 50% of the subscribers they now have. The NBN will enable professional sports to come together and form their own IPTV company and sell directly to their subscribers. The profits will stay in their sports not in some News Corp share holder's bank account.

        If it happens here.... It's Fox's nightmare scenario.

        What if local movie producers take advantage of the sport's IPTV facilities, TV producers, Theatre, Ballet, Opera and anything else really?

        What if they instead set up their own? What if overseas producers by pass Fox and release through that independent IPTV?

        What if the EPL and other major overseas football leagues also switch to the OZ Sports and Entertainment ITPTV network, (OZSE-IPTV… hey. Should I register that name?); would Foxtel be able to retain any more than 25% of their current customers?

        The potential for competition a FTTH NBN offers is almost limitless. That is what will hurt Fox and the free to air commercial stations, especially those involved in sports. That is why all of them are deriding the current government and are riding an Abbott victory so hard.
        Rubens Camejo
        • I agree with the Foxtel guy in that article

          It wouldn't make sense for AFL to create it's own media company to sell it's games to folks. Who would sign up for just that anyway, when Foxtel and other aggregators offer so much more in other both other sports and everything else?
    • Much of it is advertising.

      While Australians lag behind the rest of the world in TV and Movie availability, most of those who are downloading later go out and buy the DVD sets anyway, or they've "previewed" and still sit in front of the TV when it's broadcast, so where's the theft, when most of it is "try before you buy"?

      Yes, I know there are rabid download junkies who have shelves and shelves of illegally burned discs (too many for them to watch in a life-time) but, I think you will find they are in the minority.

      Using the highway analogy, why do we have super go-slow zones around high schools? If a twelve-year-old hasn't yet learned to cross the road safely, then surely an errant driver is doing the gene pool a favor. Instead, anyone trying to get past a school is caught up in a ridiculous melee of traffic congestion.

      It's a system of punishing all on behalf of a few. Over-zealous copyright enforcement after the product has made its returns and profits at the box-office is again punishing all on behalf of a few.

      If someone decides to audit my computers to discover I have no illegal content, I shall take great delight in charging him personally for the disruption and waste of time.
    • Theft ... ??

      There's little point in arguing with someone that can't even understand the difference between theft and copyright infringement.

      So I wont.
  • "The Copyright Industry"?

    Are there "copyright companies" on the Stock Exchange? I don't think so.

    I think I'll start a "Malware Company" and list it on the Stock Exchange. That way, anyone who gets infected by one of my viruses, trojans, or other exploits has to pay me a royalty! (That's the model that Monsanto uses when a farmer finds his property contaminated with their toxic GM crops.)

    We've seen the evidence that Australia is being over-charged for Media, Software (and Hardware). Australia is treated as the @$$-end of the world.

    I keep harping on two particular points:
    1. I like to have a properly pressed disc on my shelf, and am not prepared to pay for a download that doesn't get supported by a PRESSED disc. A visit to iTunes on one particular artist indicates that I can buy a whole album of material at 99c per song. That adds up to MORE than a CD would cost, and it's only MP3 quality, so I have a permanent search on eBay looking for second-hand CDs because the originals are NO LONGER commercially available.

    2. For every new lock, some else invents a new key. When file sharing even legitimate material becomes an encrypted process (just to frustrate those who would look over the user's shoulder) how are IAPs going to deal with that? All the kiddy-porn stuff that we hear about on the news, isn't detected just by looking at a torrent, it takes months, even years to crack because of the use of heavy encryption. The movie pirates will simply start doing the same. Just to be a nuisance, I would use encryption for daily emails and Linux downloads.
  • Further thoughts.

    Sony is my most readily available example. Who distributes movies and music and also manufactures the burners that enable people to copy them?

    Who designed the Blu-Ray disc and sells the drives capable of copying them?

    I was just loading up a machine with PowerDVD Suite to discover it has the built in capability to copy and burn a disc. I didn't try, but I think you can be watching the original and burning the copy simultaneously.

    How come the new printer that I had to buy as a rush replacement has a scanner on it? Why does it let me place a disc label-side-down on the scanner, load up the disc tray with a blank and self-aligns to copy the label information to the blank?

    This is really getting to be "Garden of Eden" territory. "Here is this tree that you're not allowed to touch."

    "Here is this disc burner and disc printer that does it all for you, but you're not allowed to use it."

    If I shall have a personal problem with people downloading through the NBN, it will be the loss of bandwidth when I'm trying to do my real job, because the downloaders will have it all clogged up.
  • Is downloading really stealing?

    Kim Williams is clearly lost in the digital age with this stupid comment 'Your honour, I did smash that window, and I did steal that piece of jewellery, because the shop was shut, and anyway they were asking too much for it.' - What if it was 'Your Honour, I did look in that window, and I did make myself a replica of that piece of jewellery , because the shop was shut, and anyway they were asking too much for it.' - do they still want to bring me down? This is the same as what illegal downloaders are doing, since the original material is still in the original owner's possesion. Any thoughts?
    Allan Pike
    • Faulty Analogy

      The analogy between physical and intellectual property breaks down when it comes to ownership. When we purchase a copy of Windows, we are not paying for the ownership of the product but the ownership of the right to use the product. The design of the jewellery is what is being stolen, not the jewellery itself. The designers do have a right to make money off their design, after all.

      A better analogy would have been that it's the jewellery owner who is affected - as if you take their design and make it yourself, you are depriving them of income that they would otherwise get for their design. The store-owner and the broken window are red herrings in the discussion, as although they are indirectly affected (the same way as they would be affected if you bought the product at another store), they aren't the issue. I can understand trying to put the analogy with thievery as visually as possible, but it does serve to miss the point.

      As an Australian consumer, my contention is that there is no jewellery store willing to handle the product until long after it is fashionable, and even then they will charge an inflated price, and that there are rules in place preventing me from being able to source it any other way. Why is it Amazon MP3 only sells to US customers? It's so disappointing to try and give money for a product only to find "This is restricted to US customers". You'd hope that the impact that Steam has had on the game industry would hint that the best way to fight piracy is convenience and fair pricing.
  • Just to throw another one into the mix....

    What if I looked in the Jewellery store, but had no intention of buying the item at that store or any other and then made myself a replica of it. The store still has the item and can still sell it for the same price. Has anyone lost any money? I think not. Same goes for software, but the software companies still claim to have lost money.
    Allan Pike
  • streaming and piracy

    i pirate tv series because there is no better alternative at this point, if i want to be able to watch tv shows like murder she wrote and the A team i have little choice but to pirate. as an example, today i went and searched for netflix only to find out that it is not available in AUS neither is HULU and neither of them have plans to launch into the AU market in the forseable future. the only other online streaming alternative is quickflix and it is geared mainly for movies. on top of that i have to pay to rent each episode costing $3 and be told i can only ahve it for 48 hours. where netflix lets you pay one sup fee of $7 a month and allows unlimited streaming of all thier content. if i had that choice i would jump all over it. i would absolutely be a long term subscriber. however seeing as i am blocked the only other choice is to get a foxtel sub for 70 a month (10X what i could pay with netflix) AND have to have all the extra channels and stuff i have absolutely no interest in.

    so thats my 2 cents worth. give me the option to stream as much as i want and i WILL pay for it as long as its a reasonable price, and more then likely others would 2.