Movie Boss Avoids Copyright Q&A to Avoid Piracy “Crazies”

A public discussion forum centered on new copyright proposals will go ahead without Australia's main Hollywood-affiliated studio. In an email just made public, Village Roadshow Co-CEO Graham Burke said his company would be boycotting the event due to it being dominated by "crazies" with a pro-piracy agenda.

runningThe main thrust from the government and entertainment industry figures is that something pretty drastic needs to be done about the illegal downloading habits of many Australians.

Consumer groups and citizens, on the other hand, want any response to be measured and coupled with assurances from entertainment companies that Australians will stop being treated like second-class consumers. Local ISPs have varying opinions, depending on the depth of their Big Media affiliations.

Back in July a discussion paper leaked revealing government proposals that include measures such as the tweaking of ISP liability right through to ‘pirate’ website blocking. Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull later indicated that a public Q&A would be held in September for representatives from the entertainment industries, ISPs, and consumer groups to air their thoughts on the proposals.

While the opportunity was welcomed by the majority of stakeholders, it’s now clear that not everyone will be there.

Village Roadshow is the company that mounted the most aggressive anti-piracy legal action ever against iiNet, one of Australia’s largest ISPs. They have a deep interest in how this debate pans out. This morning, however, co-CEO Graham Burke told ZDNet that his company wouldn’t be attending the discussions because he’ll be overseas at the time.

While that may be true, an email Burke sent to Turnbull and other participants shines rather more light on the topic.

“My company is not prepared to participate in the forum. As expressed to you previously these Q and A style formats are judged by the noise on the night and given the proposed venue I believe this will be weighted by the crazies,” Burke told the Minister.

According to ZDNet, attendees from the ISP industry will include iiNet CEO David Buckingham, Telstra executive director Jane Van Beelen and Foxtel CEO Richard Freudenstein.

On a musical front the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA) will be in attendance, as will writer and producer Peter Duncan. Looking after the interests of citizens will be consumer group Choice, but it appears Burke and Village Roadshow are concerned about potential dissent from the “crazies”.

“What is at stake here is the very future of Australian film production itself and it is too crucially important to Australia’s economy and the fabric of our society to put at risk with what will be a miniscule group whose hidden agenda is theft of movies,” Burke told the Minister.

It’s perhaps understandable for the movie boss to avoiding walking into a losing battle, but referring to those that do wish to participate in an open debate as having a hidden agenda of “movie theft” isn’t going to win over potential allies.

Boycotting discussions in which people get the opportunity to air their perhaps opposing opinions doesn’t indicate a willingness to enter a dialog or negotiations either.

But that might be the nail on the head right there.

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