Village Roadshow triples political donations to surpass AU$600k

The piracy clampdown advocate and rights holder has rebounded from a quiet year to hand AU$357,000 to the Liberal Party and AU$280,000 to the Labor party.

One of Australia's most unapologetic and enthusiastic backers of legal mechanisms to prevent copyright infringement has returned the political donation big time, as Village Roadshow parted with more than AU$600,000 in donations to Australia's two largest political parties.

Annual returns for 2015-16, released by the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) on Wednesday, showed Village Roadshow donations skewed slightly in favour of the ruling Liberal party, with AU$357,000 donated in comparison to AU$279,200 to the Australian Labor Party.

Within that number for Labor, Village Roadshow gave AU$20,000 on April 14 last year to the ALP in the seat of Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus. Under a potential Labor government, Dreyfus would be responsible for overseeing many of the regulations and laws that Village Roadshow could take advantage of in its attempts to stymie online piracy.

Village Roadshow co-CEO Graham Burke told ZDNet in 2014: "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."

In December 2016, Village Roadshow and Foxtel won a case in the Australian Federal Court that would see local internet service providers forced to block piracy sites, with rights holders paying for the cost of the blocks.

The domain name blocks appeared soon after the judgment, but are easy to bypass if users point their DNS entries at services such as Google Public DNS instead of their ISP's domain name servers.

In the telco sector, Macquarie Telecom donated AU$88,000 to the ALP and AU$20,000 to the Liberal party; Optus gave AU$33,000 to Labor and AU$32,500 to the Liberals; and Vocus donated AU$50,000 to the Liberal party.

Although Telstra did not donate any money in 2015-16, the company was listed among "other receipts" for the Liberal-affiliated Cormack Foundation investment company to the tune of AU$186,000; AU$30,000 for the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union; and AU$12,400 for Labor Holdings.

The AEC states that other receipts do not meet the legislative definition of a gift, and are instead payments, such as interest on investments, dividends on shares, and market rate rent received on properties owned.

A Telstra spokesperson told ZDNet the company does not make political donations.

"The amounts mentioned in the AEC report today relate to dividend payments from shareholdings," the spokesperson said.

Among the banks, CBA donated AU$56,550 to the ALP, AU$55,895 to the Liberal party, and AU$18,150 to National Party, but the bank once again said it does not make donations.

"Donations must not be made to any political party on behalf of the group," the bank's practices states. "There are some political events (eg party conferences) that cater for the attendance of business observers, which group staff may attend. The group discloses the costs of attendance to the relevant Commonwealth and state electoral agencies on a regular basis."

National Australia Bank (NAB) is listed as donating AU$91,601 to the Liberals and AU$61,400 to Labor. ANZ Bank parted with AU$100,000 to both big political parties, while Westpac gave AU$87,225 to the Liberals and AU$81,140 to the ALP.

Listed among "other receipts" for the federal Labor party was AU$16,500 from Facebook. No similar entry for the Liberal party was reported.

Updated at 5:02pm AEDT, February 1, 2017: Added Telstra comment.