iiNet's proposed model for dealing with copyright infringement is great, but content owners need to face the reality that their business model is all wrong before it'll work.
For as long as I've been obsessed with politics, I have been a devoted viewer of the brilliant satirical news shows The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report. The only problem was that for years, Australians who didn't have Foxtel could only see the show in bite-sized internet clips or through the weekly edition on SBS.
Or there was the illegal practice of downloading the shows via a peer-to-peer technology such as BitTorrent.
Then last year, the ABC began airing the latest episodes on its digital channel ABC2 mere hours after they were shown on TV in the United States, and also made the episodes available through its iView replay website. The immediate and easy accessibility of these episodes reduced the desire to download them illegally. Why bother going down the illegal route when all this content is freely available?
Things were all great, and US politics wonks in Australia had their daily dose of satire legally provided to them care of the public broadcaster. But then at the beginning of this year Foxtel paid for exclusive rights for the two shows on its Comedy Channel, ripping them off free-to-air and iView straight back onto pay TV only.
Thankfully, for the time being, it seems that Comedy Central is still allowing Australians to stream the full episodes (with ads) from its website, and there's always the option of subscribing to the shows through iTunes at a cost of around $2.99 per episode. Though I wouldn't be surprised to see Foxtel attempt to stop this, too.
You only have to look at comments on stories announcing the end of the shows' run on ABC2 to see how unhappy the punters were, and none of them were convinced to subscribe to Foxtel.
Foxtel's move shows how content providers are still treating Australians with contempt. Why should we be forced into buying a Foxtel connection that is packaged so you ultimately end up paying for channels you have no interest in just so you can see the one or two shows you really want to?
Foxtel CEO Kim Williams, who has recently said that the lack of laws in Australia around piracy "keeps [him] awake at night", has effectively encouraged thousands of Australians to go back to their wicked torrenting ways.
iiNet CEO Michael Malone is dead right in saying in the paper that users want easy, timely and affordable access to content and none of that describes what Foxtel is offering.