Illegal Downloading Is Scumbag Theft By Copyright Bandits Says Media Giant CEO

The chief executive of one of Australia's biggest media companies has come out all guns blazing in an attack on Internet piracy and those who carry it out. Speaking at the Australian International Movie Convention, News Limited CEO Kim Williams described movie downloading as "scumbag theft" carried out by "copyright bandits" and called for new legislation to protect the entertainment industries. "The scale of this theft makes the London riots of last year look like children stealing [candy] from a shop," he said.

The failure of the Australian AFACT vs iiNet trial to force Internet service providers to take responsibility for online piracy has not dampened the anti-piracy rhetoric down-under. Indeed, if a keynote speech from the CEO of one of Australia’s largest media corporations is anything to go by it has already reached new levels.

Kim Williams, CEO of News Limited, a News Corporation owned company behind nearly 150 newspapers and wide interests in pay TV, film and Internet, gave a keynote speech at the Australian International Movie Convention today. He used the opportunity to launch a broadside on illegal downloading and called for fresh legislation to tackle the “scumbag theft” being carried out by file-sharers.

Mr Williams claimed that more than a third of all Australians have downloaded material without permission and that 65% of all BitTorrent-distributed material is consumed illegally. He said that without action that percentage would only worsen to the point where the current 65% would “look like a pathetically modest nun’s picnic.”

Williams was quoting figures provided by the Intellectual Property Awareness Foundation, a group directly linked to AFACT and one that has had its conclusions questioned before. Nevertheless, he wasn’t done with that 65% stat just yet.

“Imagine the great works that are not being produced because the digital bandits are creating virtual pirate Globe Theaters and virtual literary magazines and making off with possibly 65 per cent of the profits,” Williams said.

“If you think I’m exaggerating, think again, because the copyright bandits of the paper age of Shakespeare and Dickens had nothing on the copyright kleptomaniacs of the digital age.”

Williams said that film piracy cost the Australian economy $1.37 billion last year and claimed that downloaders were less likely to buy movie products or use services such as iTunes, despite reports and music industry stats to the contrary.

And to those who say they download because the legal alternatives just aren’t there, Williams said that he rejects that claim, but even if true it would amount to a poor defense.

“Your honour, I did smash that window, and I did steal that piece of jewelry, because the shop was shut, and anyway they were asking too much for it,” Williams quipped.

“My response is an unequivocal -‘Take him down constable’,” he said.

In addition to calling on government to tighten up copyright law, Williams said that ISPs need to play their part and take responsibility for the actions of their users. He said that research had shown that more than 70% of illegal downloaders would stop if their ISP threatened to cut their service.

However, as noted in our earlier article on 2011 figures from IPAF that reached an almost identical conclusion, a closer look at the numbers shows a different picture.

“Illegally downloading [digital content] is the equivalent of smashing a window and taking it,” Williams added. “But the scale of this theft makes the London riots of last year look like children stealing [candy] from a shop. It may be hidden from view but internet piracy has become the biggest heist since Ronnie Biggs took an interest in trains.”

Earlier this year News Limited was mired in a copyright controversy of its own when the company was accused of pay TV piracy, claims that were vigorously denied by Williams.

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