'Lack of availability no longer an excuse' for piracy

Content owners have claimed the launch of a new guide for buying TV shows, films, music and games online shuts down claims that Australians download copyright infringing material because it is not available legitimately.

A new website detailing 80 or so websites or services where Australian can access digital content is being trumpeted as the end to the argument that Australians only download copyright infringing TV shows, films, and music because it is not available in the country.

The Digital Content Guide launched by Foxtel, Music Rights Australia, Screen Australia and a number of other content groups is designed to pool all the available streaming and download services available in Australia.

The website has over 80 different services from Foxtel Play, to Spotify, FetchTV, and Steam, all linking to places where content can be viewed or played either for free, or for a fee.

At the launch of the service in Sydney today, Australian Home Entertainment Distributors Association CEO Simon Bush said that there are more digital services available now than any time before.

"Consumers have a larger range of video and music devices, and video channels now than in any time in our history," he said.

"We need to listen to our consumers, and respond with content available on multiple platforms and devices sooner, whilst at the same time understanding the global nature of consumption of media.

"It is a challenge we relish, to deliver quality content in new and exciting ways."

He said that in pooling together the various services, Australians could now see where to go for the content they want to watch.

"The lack of availability is no longer an excuse [for copyright infringement]," he said.

But the service itself does not allow consumers to search for which subscription service contains which show or film they want to watch. A user that wanted to watch Game of Thrones, for example, would need to check in across a number of different services before being able to determine the price and availability of the show on Foxtel Play, iTunes, Quickflix or Google Play.

Despite US sites such as canistreamit.com existing to offer such search services for individual shows and films, Bush told ZDNet that getting the site to that level of granularity would be difficult.

"That's difficult because they change all the time," he said.

"The Brits did it as well, and they found it extremely difficult and cumbersome to do. You can point people to where they can get the content and they can make their own choices."

It comes as Attorney-General George Brandis and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull are divided over proposed schemes to deter copyright infringment.

While Brandis believes that ISPs should bear some of the responsibility for the cost of sending notices to customers to warn and ultimately punish for infringement, Turnbull has indicated that content owners should bear the cost of the system because it is their rights ISPs would be charged with enforcing.

Turnbull went as far as to suggest content owners should be prepared to sue mums and dads who infringe on copyright to set an example and deter other infringers when such a system is in place. Bush said there was no appetite for that for the content owners.

"There's not a great deal of appetite to do that. It's been done with a lot of controversy in the United States. I think that's a last resort, not a first resort. I think any system framework we design in this country that leads to blocking out courts and litigating consumers I don't think is the best approach," he said.

"The mitigation measure I guess is up for discussion in the negotiation. We can discuss that hopefully with the ISPs at some point."