As more of the submissions to the Australian Federal Government’s call for input on online copyright infringement are published, it’s becoming clear that the music and movie industries have a battle on their hands.
Hollywood in particular is seeking a tightening of the law which would hold ISPs more responsible for the actions of their users, while introducing a graduated response to deal with persistent domestic file-sharers.
Still can’t agree
In 2012, movie and recording companies fought a bloody battle with tech companies over SOPA in the United States but more than two years on it’s evident that the divide over what should be done about piracy is as wide as ever.
In a submission to the Government, a group of tech companies including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, eBay, Samsung, Motorola and BT largely oppose the wish-list of the entertainment industries.
Mirroring the tendency of Hollywood to state how important its members are to the economy, the Computer & Communications Industry Association begin by stating that its members employ more than 600,000 workers who generate more than $200 billion in revenue.
Launching its key observations, CCIA say that rather than pushing for the introduction of a so-called graduated response scheme, policy makers could achieve better results by focusing on the issues that encourage people to pirate in the first place.
No graduated response: provide content in a timely manner at a fair price
The group describes “high prices” and a “lack of availability of lawful content” as key domestic and international market barriers for consuming online content. But the problems don’t end there.
“Naturally, from this follows that access to on-demand/online content across territories becomes even more cumbersome and restrictive due to territorial copyright restrictions, licensing conduct, geo-blocking, price discrimination holdback and windowing,” CCIA explains.
Noting that there is “an inverted relationship” between lawful and unlawful access to content, the tech group underlines their point with a quote from Kevin Spacey.
“Audience wants the freedom.. they want control…give consumers what they want, when they want it and in the format they want it and at reasonable price,” they write.
Don’t believe their lies
A couple of points raised by the CCIA will sting their entertainment industry adversaries more than most. Noting that there “is little or no evidence” that graduated response schemes are successful (but plenty to the contrary), enforcement policies should be based only on facts, not on the claims of those determined to introduce them.
“It is also absolutely essential that enforcement debate and policy is not based on manufactured claims, exaggerations and deceptions that will in the long run risk resulting in a negative public sentiment concerning intellectual property,” CCIA writes.
“Empirical data on the impact of copyright infringement over the last two decades is deeply contested and in some cases to such a level that it is
being ridiculed. This is a highly undesirable development for the perception of copyright and by extension intellectual property in general by the broader public.”
Copyright is a “moral hazard”
In another interesting statement the CCIA suggest that when supported by legislation, companies will fall back on that to maintain business models that are no longer viable.
“Economists have expressed concerns that copyright has a moral hazard effect on incumbent creative firms, by encouraging them to rely on enforcement of the law rather than adopt new technologies and business models to deal with new technologies,” the tech firms continue.
“Hence, enforcement should not become a tool to protect businesses from competition, changing business realities and changes in consumer exactions, hereby allowing them to continue to hold on to outdated business models.”
Summing up, CCIA director Jakob Kucharczyk says that any new scheme should employ a “holistic end-to-end approach” and be coupled with efforts by content providers to give customers the content they need at a fair price.
On the issue of ISPs, the CCIA is clear. There must be a level playing field, legal protection from liability must be enshrined in law, and rightsholders must be held responsible for their actions when making allegations of infringement.
“If all parties are willing to look at equitable, cooperative programs that include a focus on the key issues outlined above, we believe that a better, more balanced and more effective outcome is achievable than that which is likely to result from the Government’s present proposals,” Kucharczyk concludes.
How the conflicting approaches of the technology companies, ISPs and the entertainment industries can ever be reconciled will be a topic for heated debate in the coming months, not only in Australia, but across the world.