After iiNet Victory, Where Now For Anti-Piracy Down Under?

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After failing to bring ISP iiNet into line with some extremely lengthy and expensive legal action, Hollywood has been left short on options in Australia. Of course, AFACT won't give in. It is appealing the case and has resorted to sending out messages to scare Internet file-sharers. But does another organization have a different approach up its sleeve?

As the campaign initiated by the RIAA in the United States seemed to show, suing file-sharers does little to reduce online piracy. The swapping of files online continued unabated throughout the last decade of litigation, prompting a new strategy from the international music and movie industries – trying to hold ISPs responsible for the activities of their subscribers.

However, under the AFACT umbrella, Hollywood lost its most prominent case against ISP iiNet after the court decided that the ISP was not responsible for the infringements of its subscribers.

Despite being ordered to pay all costs, AFACT announced it would not only go back to court in an attempt to avoid paying them, it would also appeal the entire decision, claiming that the judge was wrong on just about every point.

This stubborn attitude hasn’t gone down well, with many observers openly criticizing Hollywood’s bullish stance and insisting it should accept defeat graciously. But of course, that’s not going to happen. After all, what could they do having failed to force ISPs to carry the can? Start suing file-sharers RIAA-style?

Worryingly, an AFACT spokeswoman quoted in a News.com.au article this morning (which has since inexplicably disappeared), said the anti-piracy group now has that armageddon option under consideration. She claimed they are yet to make a final decision.

In the meantime it’s back to the old FUD strategy to try and scare people away from file-sharing networks.

“If you’re using (torrents) (we) can see every movie you want, everyone who is sharing it and everyone who has it on their hard drive,” said the AFACT spokeswoman. “It’s very public what you do and as copyright holders we have a third-party company that is mining all that information and sending it to Internet Service Providers,” she added.

Well that’s not going to scare iiNet customers very much is it?

Nevertheless, AFACT claims there are a number of things ISPs can do to stop piracy, including banning access to torrent sites. Thing is, generally they aren’t, and with this latest iiNet decision there is even less incentive for ISPs to send out warnings or even temporarily suspend accounts, as shown by Exetel which recently reversed its policy.

But there are other ways to encourage reductions in piracy. You don’t have to sue ISPs, spread FUD or imply that suing end users is an option under consideration. Instead of being aggressive towards customers, why not try to pull them onside?

The Intellectual Property Awareness Foundation (IPAF) was created to “promote the value of the industry by raising awareness, understanding and appreciation of intellectual property, and its role and value in society.” In other words, this is a more outwardly friendly anti-piracy group that aims to educate and persuade rather than deal the traditional death-by-lawyer.

Today IPAF announced the appointment of a new CEO, ex-Sony and Fox director Gail Grant who will lead the organization “to motivate a change in public attitude away from piracy” and “encourage supporting the more than 50,000 people employed in all aspects of the industry through the enjoyment of original and legitimate film and television experiences.”

Fair enough. Persuading the public is certainly better than beating them into submission. But there is a problem. While IPAF plays softly-softly with its consumer friendly image, its main sponsors are doing completely the opposite. In case you’re wondering, those sponsors are AFACT and the MPA.

As earlier pointed out by iiNet chief Michael Malone and countless others, the best way to combat piracy is to make movie and TV content available online readily and cheaply. Maybe the studios could get together and create a new group with a CEO dedicated to that, instead of spending money on all of these other good-cop/bad-cop groups with conflicting messages.

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