Movie Boss Loses the Plot Over ISP Piracy Liability

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The fight between a movie studio and an Australian ISP has today taken another odd turn. Village Roadshow's co-CEO now suggests that iiNet must take responsibility for piracy in the same way a car manufacturer apparently would if one of its vehicles killed someone while being driven by a customer. Except they don't, of course.

pirate-cardIt’s probably fair to say that Village Roadshow and iiNet don’t get on. The pair are so far apart on how to deal with the piracy issue they ended up in court together, a battle that iiNet won when the court found that the ISP could not be held liable for the infringements of its users.

The decision did nothing to change the positions of either company and in recent weeks a very public dispute broke out between iiNet Chief Regulatory Officer Steve Dalby and Village Roadshow co-CEO Graham Burke. The topic? The former’s continued but now legally supported refusal to take responsibility the activities of its customers.

While some may have a level of sympathy with Burke’s predicament, retreading old ground over ISP liability can hardly be the solution. Today even more inflammables were thrown onto the fire.

Should a knife manufacturer be held responsible for what happened in the Psycho shower scene? Should Ford be held liable for a drunk driver piloting one of their vehicles? These rhetorical questions have well-trodden answers, but Burke hasn’t been paying attention.

In a new interview with CNET, Burke again attacked Dalby, accusing him of “distorting the picture” in the face of the Village Roadshow chief’s self-claimed fairness.

“For him to be continuing to distort the picture when he clearly knows otherwise is very depressing,” Burke said. “I’m dealing with it in a transparent and open and honest way and I wished we could get that from iiNet.”

And then the bombshell.

“iiNet are selling a car which happens to kill people on the roads, so they should be paying towards that. It’s the car that’s faulty. In this instance it’s the fault of the car, not the driver. They’re providing a service which enables people to steal other people’s property, so…some of the costs should be theirs,” Burke said.

“All Mr Dalby wants is to continue to have this extraordinary smorgasbord of product that’s made by creative people, with the sweat of their passion and labors, and that he can have a mechanism where he can be the conduit that provides that free and he clips the ticket. He’s complicit.”

Clearly there is nothing inherently faulty with iiNet’s service. It’s essentially an empty pipe that the customer can fill in the manner of his choosing, and one that’s no more broken than the postal or telephone systems that preceded it. Nevertheless, Burke still wants to shoot the messenger and Dalby is having none of it.

There can be no doubt that Village Roadshow and its Hollywood affiliates feel they have a big problem to solve, but with arguments like these it’s easy to see how the dispute with iiNet has gone on for so long. Indeed, there appears to have been no progress made in half a decade.

Of course, there’s always the possibility that the government will step in with the three strikes system that Burke is pushing hard for. If that happens, Burke will have “won”, but when that victory will arrive is another matter entirely, raising the specter of yet more out-of-date legislation before it even arrives.

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