As Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull sends out invitations for a public forum looking at ways to reduce online copyright infringement, one noticeable absentee will be outspoken Village Roadshow Co-CEO Graham Burke, who told the minister the forum would be dominated by "crazies" only interested in "theft of movies".
The government last month released an online copyright infringement discussion paper that outlines potential changes to legislation to compel internet service providers to intervene and deter their customers from downloading infringing TV shows, films, and music — or be found liable for their users' actions.
At the time of the announcement, Turnbull indicated there would be a public forum held for the industry and consumer groups to make their thoughts known on the proposal, and invitations were sent out today for the forum, to be held in Sydney on Tuesday September 9.
Turnbull will host the event, and there will be a panel discussion involving a figures from across the telecommunications and content industry, and consumer rights groups.
At the event will be iiNet CEO David Buckingham, Telstra executive director Jane Van Beelen, Foxtel CEO Richard Freudenstein, APRA CEO Brett Cottle, Choice CEO Alan Kirkland and writer/producer Peter Duncan.
One noticable absentee from the event is Village Roadshow's Graham Burke, who has in recent times ramped up his calls for the government to crack down on Australians downloading copyright-infringing TV shows and films online, stating that the impact on his business, behind such films as The Lego Movie, would be devastating.
"We make AU$2.6 billion-worth of films in Australia. If the piracy thing is not nailed, it's over mate. O-V-E-R," Burke told ZDNet in June.
Burke today told ZDNet he would be overseas at the time of the event. However, in an email obtained by ZDNet sent from Burke to Turnbull and other CEOs and industry figures including executives at Telstra, Optus, iiNet, Foxtel, News, the Communications Alliance, and ARIA invited to the forum earlier this month, Burke said his company would not be attending the event due to the "crazies" dominating such an event:
My company is not prepared to participate in the forum. As expressed to you previously these Q and A style formats are judged by the noise on the night and given the proposed venue I believe this will be weighted by the crazies.
What is at stake here is the very future of Australian film production itself and it is too crucially important to Australia's economy and the fabric of our society to put at risk with what will be a miniscule group whose hidden agenda is theft of movies.
Burke confirmed to ZDNet that he sent the email to the minister and the other executives.
Village Roadshow has been a participant in discussions over copyright infringement in the past, and is one member of the Australian Screen Association — formerly known as the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft — the litigants that took iiNet all the way to the High Court and lost.
The proposals put forward in the government's discussion paper would seek to undo the High Court ruling that iiNet did not authorise its users' copyright infringement by not taking actions against customers alleged to have shared infringing TV shows and movies online.
Village Roadshow has donated close to AU$4 million to both the Labor and Liberal parties since 1998.