Copyright infringement is terrorism, screech the revolution's losers

Copyright infringement is terrorism, screech the revolution's losers

Summary: If these efforts from the copyright industry and its workers' union are the best they can do, then it's time for them to face up to their own mortality.


You might have thought that Australia's "debate" over online copyright infringement couldn't get any sillier. But this week the journalists' union came out as a fan of internet censorship, only to withdraw when they realised what they'd done. And Village Roadshow equated copyright infringement with terrorism and pedophilia, and came out in support of, oh, moonbats or something. Hard to say.

Village Roadshow's submission (PDF) to the government's copyright infringement discussion paper is the loopiest, with so much shouting and whining that it's hard to take their hyperbole seriously.

"The dangers posed by piracy are so great, the goal should be total eradication or zero tolerance. Just as there is no place on the internet for terrorism or paedophilia, there should be no place for theft that will impact the livelihoods of the 900,000 people whose security is protected by legitimate copyright," the submission says.

Oh get a grip.

The tone is clearly that of Village Roadshow's co-CEO Graham Burke, whose manner at the best of times can most generously be described as eccentric. But to equate the abstract problem of a reduction in your profit margin with the damage done to the victims of child sexual abuse and the slaughter of innocents? That takes some chutzpah.

There's an entire section complaining about arch-enemy iiNet, as if that one company personifies the entire internet and its users.

"The principal opposition to a rational approach dealing with theft comes from the propaganda machine of iiNet under the heading of 'Fighting For Our Customers'. Their propaganda defines disingenuous and should be headed 'Misleading Our Customers'."

The "900,000 Australians that stand to lose their jobs" rhetoric gets a good run, and the rest of the framing is much the same as the government's discussion paper — surely a coincidence. I've dealt with that spin previously.

Village Roadshow actually makes some balanced points. The costs of implementing a so-called graduated response scheme, where action against alleged copyright infringers starts with educational notices and eventually escalates to the "shaping" or slowing down of their internet service, should be shared between ISPs and the copyright industry, for example. Costs should not be passed on to end users.

But that clarity will end up being lost in the headline-grabbing loopiness and the endless sore-loser whinging about iiNet's profits. Perhaps the copyright industry, and Village Roadshow in particular, should consider whether it's the wisest strategy to continue with a buffoon as their front man.

As for the Media, Entertainment, and Arts Alliance, as ZDNet reported, its submission supported the blocking of websites accused of copyright infringement with disturbing enthusiasm.

"We are concerned that the proposal for injunctions to only be available [sic] against sites that have the 'dominant purpose' of infringing copyright could create a loophole. Pirate sites can have other purposes. It would be simpler for injunctive relief to be available in relation to any infringing online services," it said.

Simpler, perhaps, but not just. Pirate sites — a term as blunt and prejudiced as "crack house" — can have other purposes. Nevertheless, the MEAA seemed happy to punish legitimate users going about their legitimate business. Whatever. Block 'em, and collateral damage be damned.

"No other industry is subject to a campaign suggesting that consumers should help themselves to goods and services without paying because it is more convenient," they wrote. 

A common statement about a potential cause of copyright infringement, was utterly misrepresented as the promotion of illegal activity — a slur at best incompetent, if not unethical and defamatory.

But the MEAA's entire hardline submission was withdrawn within hours on Thursday following an online backlash.

Apart from a brief press release, the MEAA has refused to comment on this sudden turnaround. But according to Myriam Robin in Crikey today, "MEAA insiders were this morning describing the whole kerfuffle as a 'f***-up', with its genesis likely in the ongoing division of different sections of the union."

It wasn't the MEAA's representation of journalists at play here, dedicated as such people usually are to free and open communication. The MEAA also represents actors, dancers, sportspeople, orchestral and opera performers, people working in entertainment venues and at recreation grounds — a veritable menagerie of B-Ark passengers.

Within that part of the MEAA, "there is a concerted attempt to keep the big movie producers onside, as this can help in pay negotiations and the like," Robin writes. "Yesterday's spurned submission, which read like it could have been written by the film industry lobby, ultimately went too far."

Now, I can understand the emotions behind these two scattergun submissions, and why in the MEAA's case, one section of the organisation went so far as to forget their previously-stated policies. In the global digital revolution that's changing everything, these industrial-age entertainment-industry types look like they're on the losing side.

For actors, musicians, and all the rest, industry restructuring means that even if they're still needed in the same numbers — which I doubt — they won't necessarily be working in the same ways for the same kinds of organisations. For many of them, their jobs are doomed, and the world needs only so many baristas.

For regional middle-men in the entertainment distribution industry, well, the whole point of the internet is to connect people globally without middle-men. Who needs 'em? They're definitely doomed.

Things are indeed getting desperate. This is why they promote ideas like graduated response, even though, as Rebecca Giblin of the Monash University faculty of law said in a paper on the issue: "There is little to no evidence that that graduated responses are either 'successful' or 'effective'".

Indeed, there's a telling comment in the dumped MEAA submission: "Clearly anything that makes piracy more complicated and time consuming will reduce its incidence." But this hand-waving doesn't consider whether the cost of doing this "anything" might outweigh the benefits. It's a logical fallacy. We must do something. This is something. Therefore we must do it.

We're watching the death throes of an industry, ladies and gentlemen. Listen to their whining. Watch them thrash about. But only for the entertainment value, not as the basis for government policy.

Topics: Government AU, Privacy, Australia


Stilgherrian is a freelance journalist, commentator and podcaster interested in big-picture internet issues, especially security, cybercrime and hoovering up bulldust.

He studied computing science and linguistics before a wide-ranging media career and a stint at running an IT business. He can write iptables firewall rules, set a rabbit trap, clear a jam in an IBM model 026 card punch and mix a mean whiskey sour.

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  • copyright is just a gov tool to control people

    copyright is just a gov tool to control people

    do NOT FORGET that!
    Jiří Pavelec
    • you re right...

      ... with that statement.
      i stumbled upon something very disgusting these days: in europe we have our own currency... you might have heard about it... the €uro... the disgusting thing is that: on EVERY Euro-note there is this sign "©" that indicates a copyright... what has this sign to do with money?? and what if i make a copy of this euro? is that money-laundering or a copyright infringement?
      • Or both...

        With the laundering charge you might get 20 years or so...
        With the copyright charge you get banned from using the computer for the rest of your life... and prison for 5 years...

        If they can't get you for one, they get you for the other...
      • Good point

        Protecting the money supply is the province of counterfeiting laws, not copyright laws.
        John L. Ries
      • Nothing to do with that

        It is about copying, modifying or reusing elements of the design, not counterfeiting. If you wish to reuse *any* element of the design, you must seek approval to do so, even if that's just for something like an informational website. In theory, the 'fair use' doctrine allows such uses, but the reality is it could cost you half a million euros before you even see the inside of a courtroom to make such an argument.

        The odd thing about this is, European copyright *never* needed to be registered or display the (c) symbol - that was an American convention (which was dropped in '72 I think). European copyright has always been an automatic thing. The only reason I can think of for the use of that symbol is to make it absolutely categorically clear to people in jurisdictions with less well defined copyright law.
    • Rather... has become a competition and distribution channel control mechanism. Large publishers also find it useful if out of print works are forgotten long before their copyrights expire, so that the don't compete with the new material they're trying to sell.

      I'm actually in favor of copyright to the extent that it actually encourages the production of new work, but much of existing law does not even try to serve that end, but addresses the so-called need for "intellectual property protection" as an end to itself. And money not spent on copyrighted works is money spent on other things, which means that jobs lost in copyright dependent industries will tend to be gained elsewhere.

      But I don't see how copyright serves as a means of government control. Perhaps you can elaborate.
      John L. Ries
  • the new paradigm

    the new paradigm is to substitute streaming in place of physical media distribution. in this scheme users(customers) never hold copies of material("content") but rather stream desired material from their cloud based libraries where they hold licenses for access to various content.

    the objection of course is that stream may not work well all the time and can be expensive where service providers charge by the GB as well as for the service speed ( mb/sec ). as streaming gains in use service providers will be virtually forced to adopt pricing covering GB transferred as well as service speed.

    the streaming will be directed to an "app" of course -- in an effort to prevent local end points from capturing "local copies" -- which might be re-distributed -- horror of horrors. this effort will fail, obviously, as black market devices will appear rather promptly in response to the lock-down efforts.
    • And the other part of it

      One cannot redistribute (even legally) something one never had a copy of in the first place, helping to insure that each viewer pays an official distributor each and ever time one views the material.
      John L. Ries
    • Not so

      Streaming is just a form of copying. It isn't possible to digitally transfer a file without copying it. Now that doesn't mean that copy infringes copyright, but it goes to the heart of where distributors want to take this - every digital use causes a copy to be made, therefore potential infringement, therefore give us control of everything. It's a bullshit argument, but they've been gaining traction with it for decades. Considering they have more power and influence than ever before, they're only going to push harder on this.

      Make no mistake - no digital technology that makes it easier for rights holders to make money and conduct their business will sway them from their goals of complete control of their IP in every foreseeable form for perpetuity. Their argument for half a century has been IP rights should be the same as physical property rights. Again, that's a spurious argument, but one that has helped them to gain ongoing extensions to the term of copyright ownership (from 28 years to 95 years).
  • You do all realize that...

    ...we all forced to live by Mickey Mouse laws, right?
    Feel small yet?
  • it all a furphy...

    The entertainment industry isn't hurting, or loosing money, they are actually doing quite well (they increase profits Year-on-year).

    This is about maximising those profits, and controlling "the channel" so they don't need to give up on crap like region locking, exclusive release deals etc.
    • It's more than that

      Original copyright terms in the USA were an initial 14 years for registered works, followed by a 14 year extension for those that applied at the end of the initial period. Now there is no iinitial period, only the maximum period, and it is 95 years. And due to international trade agreements, most of the world has been strong armed into adhering to US IP law, despite having precisely zero say in the crafting of the legislation nor the common law influence of judicial decisions.

      The end game isn't just controlling digital distribution channels, it is about the law being altered to recognise IP ownership as principally identical to physical property ownership - that is, they own it, all its derivatives, alterations and the rights to own, use, display, resell or hire, for perpetuity, forever. Which doesn't just give them the rights to what you have and whether you're allowed to access it, but how you use it.

      The technical aspects of this are far less material than the legislation - once they have the legal right defined as they want it, they can easily justify technological measures to enforce their legal rights.

      The problem is, their logical is fundamentally flawed - IP laws were crafted with explicit limitations built in for a reason - without them, there is no such thing as 'public domain'. Without the public domain, there is no way for culture to have the freedom to reuse, alter, build on or make new creations inspired by the creations of others. Without the public domain, there would be no Disney, as most of Disney's creations borrow heavily (if not outright copy) the unlicensed creative works of others. Mickey Mouse may be a mouse drawn by Disney, but he first appeared in a shameless rip off of a Buster Keston film that was first shown just a few months before, that same year.

      Yet Disney are one of the most litigious copyright holders in the world. They once sued one of their own distributors because they were using clips of Disney films to sell Disney films, which was perfectly fine on DVD and video, but not on the Internet. Disney destroyed that business for the purpose of control, and principles of 'fair use' didn't even get a look in.

      Fox demanded $10,000 for a university professor to use a 4.5 second clip of backstage theatre crew because there was a TV in the background showing the Simpsons. It was either pay up, or go to court. He removed the clip. He estimated it would cost him hundreds of thousands to defend, and though it was clearly fair use, winning wouldn't award him his own legal costs. He didn't have $10k let alone several hundred thousand.

      These examples illustrate the thinking of the executives and the lawyers running these companies. They don't care about education, they don't care about what is 'good for' culture, they don't care about fair use, they don't care about innovative uses of content to increase sales, they don't care about the emergence of new markets using and selling their content in new ways, they don't care about 'middle ground' or negotiations or unreasonable justification - what they care about is whether or not they have total legislative ownership and control of their content. Until and unless they do, they will not stop lobbying and they will not stop litigating. And if they ever do achieve their goals, the litigation won't stop, and the lobbying will continue to ensure there is no erosion of their hard won powers.

      It's time that people started reading a bit of history, getting a bit of context and understanding that without significant and unified push back from electorates, we have no hope of competing with the litigation and lobbying machine that is 'rights holders' representative organisations like the MPAA. and opposing them is our only hope for the future of culture.
  • Pushing back

    If I can't get it for nothing /free I don't watch /listen to it.
    There's a whole world out there with a whole lot of things /activities /hobbies /pastimes to take up my time. Anyway got to go now, going fishing.