Consumer group decries government's anti-piracy plans

Choice says leaked copyright law reforms don't address real issue

Consumer advocacy group Choice has criticised anti-piracy proposals contained in a leaked government discussion paper as likely to be ineffective and failing to deal with the root causes of unauthorised downloading of content.

The leaked discussion paper included measures to roll back the outcome of a court case brought by a group of movie studios against Internet service provider iiNet. The ISP was found to not be liable for copyright violations committed by its customers.

The discussion paper included expanding the liability of ISPs for copyright violations and a system to allow rights holders to apply for websites to be blocked.

"If the government is serious about addressing piracy, it needs to address the fundamental issues: That Australians often find it hard to gain access to content like movies and television, and when they do, they pay far too much compared to consumers in other countries," Choice campaigns manger, Erin Turner, said in a statement today.

Australians frequently pay 50 per cent more for software and other digital products such as games and music, Turner said.

Choice is calling on the federal government to implement the findings of the IT pricing inquiry. The inquiry's report, At what cost? IT pricing and the Australia tax was tabled in July last year. As yet there has been no government response to the report.

In the report, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications noted that during the inquiry it had heard evidence that "suggests that high prices for copyright material and anachronistic business practices may undermine the copyright regime generally and may also serve to generate infringement."

"[D]espite industry claims about the costs of copyright infringement, consumers insist that their rights to access copyright material are being unfairly limited by methods such as copyright law provisions, or mechanisms such as geoblocking, which ... can take various forms," the report states.

"The Committee also notes suggestions that copyright provisions can have a practical effect of reducing competition. The Committee acknowledges claims that access to content is sought in various ways, and notes that these claims are often the subject of debate about legitimacy."

"If the leaks are correct, the government's anti-piracy discussion paper has missed the opportunity to deal with this problem — in fact, the paper explicitly says the government does not want to receive comment on 'Australia tax' issues," Turner said.

Choice is calling for a number of measures to be examined by the government, including an end to parallel import restrictions; education around geoblocking and greater legal protection for consumers that bypass geoblocking measures; potential legal bans on geoblocking; the introduction of a 'right of resale' for digital goods; and an end to intellectual property exemptions in parts of consumer and competition law.

"We are not suggesting that better access and more competitive prices are silver bullets that will solve this issue entirely," Turner said.

"However, they are important factors which deserve real consideration — not just a tokenistic mention in a preamble [of the leaked discussion paper]."

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