NBN will worsen piracy: leaked cable

NBN will worsen piracy: leaked cable

Summary: A 2010 cable from the Canberra Embassy to the White House, outed by Wikileaks last week, warns that the roll-out of the National Broadband Network (NBN) will worsen the levels of copyright theft in Australia.


A 2010 cable from the Canberra Embassy to the White House, outed by Wikileaks last week, warns that the roll-out of the National Broadband Network (NBN) will worsen the levels of copyright theft in Australia.

The comment came in a cable reporting the outcome of the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft's (AFACT's) Federal Court case against iiNet. AFACT failed to convince the Federal Court in February 2010 that iiNet had authorised its users' copyright infringement by failing to pass on notices provided by AFACT. In the cable, it is noted that as a result of the loss, AFACT would increase pressure on the government to make law changes.

"The hope for AFACT and the big studios was that a favourable decision would have established an international precedent that could have forced ISPs to tightly police the activities of their customers," the cable said. "AFACT will likely increase its lobbying of the Australian government for legislative changes.

"In the meantime, the problem will persist and probably worsen with the advent of Australia's high-speed National Broadband Network, as the speeds at which copyright theft can take place will literally multiply."

AFACT subsequently appealed the Federal Court's decision, and lost the appeal with the full bench of the Federal Court. Earlier this month, AFACT was granted special leave to appeal the case before the High Court of Australia, and the case is expected to be heard later this year or early next year.

NBN Co itself recently appointed one of the most high-profile anti-piracy advocates in Australia: Sabiene Heindl of Music Industry Piracy Investigations (MIPI) as stakeholder manager.

Telstra dominates leaked cables

Australia's incumbent telecommunications provider Telstra was a hot topic of conversation in the leaked cables, appearing in five cables outed by Wikileaks on Friday.

In the earliest cable from March 2007, the Melbourne Embassy concluded, following a meeting with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, that a failure by the then-Howard Government to structurally separate Telstra as a reason why there had been a delay in rolling out a fibre network to Australia.

"Splitting Telstra's infrastructure and product divisions would have made the transition to fibre networks more rational and easier to regulate. However, this was politically untenable at the time, likely because the government wanted to maintain the company's share price before the sell-off. As the benefits of making the switch to a fibre network are substantial, especially in a country with Australia's geographic peculiarities, it will likely go forward with Telstra in the driver's seat."

As the newly installed Rudd Labor government moved ahead on its NBN project, a cable from July 2008 notes that progress on the government's plan had stalled due to a lack of cooperation with Telstra. The cable notes that "after a warm beginning, relations between Telstra and the Rudd Government have begun to deteriorate", and while Telstra had initially liked Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, because he "had the fine quality of not being Helen Coonan, the Howard Government's last Minister for Communications", talk of structural separation of the telco had Telstra threatening legal action.

As the government entered negotiations with Telstra to get on-board the NBN, a cable from September 2009 warned that government threats to prevent Telstra from accessing spectrum if it refused to structurally separate could have backfired.

"Although the government holds the upper hand in negotiations, it must still proceed with caution, as not to 'kill the goose that lays the golden egg'."

Topics: NBN, Broadband, Government AU, Piracy, Security, Telcos


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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  • In the same way that building a new motor way (compared with a bush track) increases the likelihood of speeding, it just makes it easier, but it doesn't mean that its the cause.
  • It seems perfectly obvious that ubiquitous high-speed broadband is a boon for business models for providing legitimate content. What at the moment is a very unsatisfactory patchwork will surely give way to far better options - I know that I would be happy to pay a fair price for on-demand access to those TV shows and movies that I want - without the ghastly clutter from current pay TV services.
  • All the Wikileaks cables from Australia have revealed so far is just how mundane the job of an embassy staffer is. They do very little more than regurgitate the "mainstream" view of the time - usually with a bit of flair to make writing and reading the otherwise pedicatable text bearable.

    They are about as newsworthy as "Tony Abbott makes stunt appearance with tricky line about carbon tax"....oh but I guess they get a run too.
  • yep this is just more news at 11 stuff, guess it's time for AFACT and the movie/music industry to grow up, adapt and evolve. Progress in telecommunications should not come to a stall just to accommodate these cry babies.
    Hubert Cumberdale
  • The NBN will also make it easier to obtain music, movies and TV shows via legitimate means.
    • Only if the studios make the content available.
    • I'm not sure how...
      I mean, it's not like you can post a Bluray or CD over fibre!
      Anyone who could do that, would surely be a witch.
      • Netflix in USA. Legit way of streaming Movies and TV Shows
        Hulu. Legit way of streaming Movies and TV Shows
        CBS, FOX, HBO on demand the list goes on, Legit way of streaming TV Shows
        iTunes Legit way of purchasing Music, Movies and TV Shows
        The limiting factor is the draconian licencing of shows so that can not be viewed outside of the USA to protect local advertiser.
        "Fasttracking" a show from the US and showing it days later doesn't compete with being able to view the show online 10-60mins after it airs in the US, which it is usually with the on demand services

        Increasing the Pipe size doesn't have to increase the privacy. If legitimate ways of watching content can be provided by content services. The ability to download music via iTunes revolutionized the Music Industry and showed that people are willing to pay for a digital item. The TV and Movie industries in Australia need to move with the times, offer the content now and learn to adapt.
  • DanielB1 got it right. It seems only monopolistic content corporations, or the politicians and hangers-on they may have bought along the way, could attempt to extrapolate an increase in access speeds as allegedly leading to some purportedly improper enduses.

    Obviously we should also demand the end of internet banking. After all, somebody might possibly attempt to use that for improper purposes.
  • Higher speed broadband just exacerbates the current status quo, more people will download but more will legitimately download too. If content providers want a greater percentage of traffic to be legitimate downloads then reasonable prices, no drm and no regional delays are the way to go.
  • Downloading 10 gig on a 10 gig limit is still only Downloading 10 gig ( which is not even a movie these days ( well if your getting blu ray that is :P )

    the NBN just means we get shaped faster ... while Australia still has data limits nothing will change ( apart from wanting a higher data limit ) when i was on dial up my provider hated me .. my lowest was 8 gig a month and 12 gig average :P and that was only 33k connection ... that sometimes could hit 56k ... if it was dry weather

    tho I will miss my Unlimited ADSL2 for $60 odd bucks :S

    wish we could have the option to stay on the copper or have the same plan same price on the NBN
  • More people on faster internet = more piracy, plain and simple.
    But people are forgetting, more people on faster internet = more itunes downloads and more legit uses of the internet as well
  • The problem wouldn't be the NBN, it will be the people who abuse it. As has been stated above (repeatedly), reasonable prices and timely availability is all that is needed to bring the concept of piracy practically into non-existence.

    Personally, I wonder if AFACT staff actually read these sites. It seems to me that we in the world seem to know more about reducing piracy than they do.
  • If we had legitimate ways of obtaining all of this content from the internet, piracy would be cut in half. I would happily pay $20 or $30 a month to have access to all free-to-air content online, even if I had to sit through a few minutes of ads at the start before it began. The stupid thing is, ADSL speeds here are fast enough to support this kind of content already. Seems as though the people that have the power to make it happen just wont.
  • Why write an article about this?

    Surely people can put 2 and 2 together and get 4.

    Current Speeds - TV shows/movies/etc
    NBN - (heavenly sound) - instant gratification.

    It's like that ad that put on DVDs nowadays about piracy.
    Here's Tom waiting for movie to download.
    Here's Tom's friends enjoying the movie from Video Ezy.

    Here's Tom, watching movie.
    Here's Tom's friends, waiting for movie to come to Australian cinemas.
  • Why don't they give satellite broadband a try? It may be costly now but in the long-run, satellite service providers. Australia's defense and mining sector relies heavily on satellite communications so the infrastructure is already in place to deliver in remote areas, no worries about cables that could potentially leak. There are other solutions that haven't been considered which could deliver high-quality broadband coverage across Australia, it's not just cables all the time.
    John Grant-193d8
  • All I got out of that was that we won't get any streaming services and as such will still be forced to pirate but becuase we have a faster network we will pirate more.

    Well I don't know about you, but there is a simple answer to the problem, provide services that would help alleviate the problem.
  • Such conviction, wit and erudition from an embassy staffer: ""the problem will persist and probably worsen ... as the speeds at which copyright theft can take place will literally multiply."

    I suppose we shouldn't teach the next generation to read, then they won't be able to read how to [insert undesirable behaviour]. We shouldn't allow vehicles to travel faster than walking pace, otherwise bank robbers will use them as getaway cars. We shouldn't allow photocopiers, because someone will copy banknotes, or cassette recorders, because people will copy songs.

    For heaven's sake, this is the silliest and tiredest argument for not upgrading our communications networks!