Comms Alliance calls for online music pricing parity trial

CEO John Stanton also says content providers should remove geo-blocking of legal content on overseas websites

Content piracy will continue in Australia unless measures such as music pricing parity trials with the US and the removal of geo-blocking content goes ahead, according to the Communications Alliance.

Chief executive, John Stanton, told an inquiry hearing on Monday of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communication that the Alliance and its members including the major internet service providers (ISPs) had been in discussions with content rights holders about the trial of a notice-based scheme to deter online infringement.

“If we can agree on the trial of a notice based scheme, we could also include a trial of some new [online] pricing and distribution strategies,” he said.

“For example, if IT purchase prices for online music were harmonised with US prices during the duration of the trial, we could get an indication of how much more effective this would be in combatting piracy in that category compared to categories where the [Australian] price differentials had been left in place."

Stanton tabled a report for the Committee called The Sky is Rising which was published in the US and examined how content providers are battling piracy there.

A case study in the report featured Valve Software, who produce games such as the Half Life series, and how the company reduced game piracy.

“Valve Software kept reducing the price of the [Half Life] games but they found their total revenue actually increased by 35 per cent,” he said.

Stanton was then asked by the Committee about the issue of geo blocking where Australians are prevented from access to content on legitimate overseas websites.

“Our position is we would like to see that [geo-blocking] dismantled as it is a classic generator of online piracy,” he said.

Stanton used the example of popular US TV show Game of Thrones as an example of why geo-blocking should be removed.

According to Stanton, after a Game of Thrones episode is screened in the US it is only available to consumers there.

“There is an estimated 10-day delay with the episode going on iTunes Australia. Frustrated with waiting, consumers take the easy option of Bit Torrent sites,” he said.

“It [piracy] annoys the content owners but they need to close the geo-blocking window. I think you will find that if Australian consumers have access to content at the same time as the US, most consumers will be willing to pay a reasonable price for content,” he said.

He added that the Alliance and its members did not condone online piracy in any shape or form.

“Earlier this year, the High Court of Australia in its unanimous decision in the Roadshow and others versus iiNet case provided a vital clarification on copyright infringement when it found iiNet could not be deemed to have authorised the actions of its customers to use file sharing via the Internet connection,” he said.

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

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