World waiting for iiNet piracy trial: Conroy

People around the world are waiting for the result of the appeal of the landmark copyright case brought against iiNet, according to Communications Minister Stephen Conroy speaking at an online retail forum today.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

People around the world are waiting for the result of the appeal of the landmark copyright case brought against iiNet, according to Communications Minister Stephen Conroy speaking at an online retail forum today.

Nick Sherry and Stephen Conroy

Small Business Minister Nick Sherry and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy (Credit:Josh Taylor/ZDNet Australia)

The Australian Federation against Copyright Theft (AFACT) went after iiNet in 2008, claiming that it had authorised its users to breach copyright by providing them access to its network and failing to act when they allegedly down- or uploaded pirated content using the network. iiNet won the case, but AFACT appealed. That appeal is currently waiting for judgement.

AFACT yesterday published a report stating that piracy in Australia was costing the Australian film industry approximately $1.37 billion annually. The federation called for the government to act on implementing policy on piracy quickly, hoping that policy would be formed before the onset of the National Broadband Network.

Speaking to journalists at an online retail forum in Sydney today, Conroy said the government was keeping a close eye on the results of the iiNet case.

"I don't know when the judges are going to make a final ruling and there could be appeals to the full bench. The [Convergence] Review will discuss all of those issues but obviously everybody worldwide is waiting to see the outcome of that."

The government is conducting a Convergence Review which will examine the way the media and communications landscape is evolving as a result of technological advances.

Telstra had asked that piracy matters be left out of the review pending the final verdict on the iiNet case, but Conroy indicated that piracy would be on the table.

"One of the issues I'm sure that will be debated [in the convergence review] is piracy ... so I expect that will be a larger part review," he said. "We won't form any policy until after the convergence review is finished."

Too early to blame online for Borders demise

Although media commentary has blamed the online world for bricks-and-mortal book retailers Borders and Angus & Robertson being placed in administration, Conroy thought it was too early to say that the rise of online retailers such as the Book Depository was the driver for their fall.

"It's a tragedy that any company is going out of business and equally that people lose their jobs," he said. "I'm sure there are a whole variety of complex reasons why companies go out of business and this may be a factor, it may be an influence on this but it's too early at this stage to make a judgement to blame one thing ahead of others."

Conroy said retailers needed to adapt to the online world.

"Kodak was threatened many years ago because they had film, and today digital cameras are the norm. Technologies marches on. There will be transformation; there will be new jobs and over time there could be job losses," he said. "But I think what today's discussion highlighted was that the platform needed to expand."

Minister for Small Business Nick Sherry said the upcoming productivity commission review into online retailing would "look at the fact and separate the fiction" about the effect of the internet on retail in Australia

"I've said to many small business operators who have highlighted these issues: supply the facts, let's not attribute the blame to one particular issue at a point of time because it's convenient to do so," he said.

Sherry compared the issue to the demise of the blacksmith in the 1920s and the rise of petrol stations as cars took over from the horse and cart.

"Because the rise of technology innovation sees the decline in some sectors of the economy, it doesn't mean you lose jobs overall," Sherry said. "It actually leads to a stronger economy. It is about job growth and that's what's occurring with the opportunities here in retail."

Conroy said the internet posed no boundaries for retailers to become successful worldwide.

"The 28-year-old who developed the iPhone app called Flight Control. He's a millionaire now. Australia's first millionaire from an iPhone app. The thing about the internet [is] you instantly become a global company."

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