Given that Australia is often credited with giving its consumers products that have been available in other regions for some time, it perhaps fits that the country has often been behind the times when it comes to anti-piracy measures.
Still, it’s doing its best to catch up now.
From having almost no way of dealing with unauthorized content consumption (besides giving consumers what they want in a timely fashion at a fair price), Australia is now blazing trails on the site-blocking front. Mid-December marked the beginning of the practice Down Under, when the Federal Court ordered ISPs to block The Pirate Bay and several other sites.
Days later and the first blocks were in place but defeated in seconds by anyone with a basic knowledge of Windows settings. Nevertheless, the content industries feel this is the way forward and are now doubling down.
Speaking with Mashable, Graham Burke, co-chief of Village Roadshow, is warning that a new wave of blocks is already on the horizon, informing the publication that his company is determined to go after pirate sites “big time.”
Burke, who is Australia’s most out-spoken individual on piracy issues, says that pirate site users won’t have long to wait to find out which domains will be targeted. When the court resumes in February, it will be all systems go, he said.
“There’s a list as long as my arm,” he said.
Of course, this revelation comes as no surprise. Over in the UK, where a similar model is in place, site blocking is now a regular occurrence. Often happening by stealth, site blocks are mainly put in place by rightsholders that have been granted permission to amend existing court orders. There’s now zero fanfare when another dozen or a hundred sites get added to the nation’s unofficial blocklist.
Things will be slightly more public in Australia though, and new injunctions will be required for sites not already covered by earlier orders. That said, the process is now fairly well understood and having dozens of new sites blocked shouldn’t prove too difficult, once they are determined to be both infringing and based overseas.
But while site-blocking is certainly part of the puzzle, Burke has once again reiterated his intention to pursue one of the most unpopular anti-piracy strategies. Despite the practice failing to have much positive effect in any other region in the past 15 years, the studio boss says his company will stick to its plan of suing file-sharers.
“We have the legal ability and the right to do,” Burke told Mashable. “Unlike previous areas where that’s been explored, if anyone is of dire circumstances or poor health and they undertake to stop doing it, we will accept that.”
While suing the sick and disadvantaged has never ended well for copyright holders, Burke’s insistence that his strategy aims to “win people’s hearts and minds” is optimistic, to say the least.
Suing end-users is extremely messy and equally expensive unless large ‘fines’ are handed out to supposed infringers to cover costs. When that’s the case, suing starts to look more like a profit center than a deterrent, at which point the moral high-ground is lost and hearts and minds disappear forever.
That being said, the vow to sue members of the public is hardly a new one. Burke made the same comments almost a year ago and the studio seems no closer to actually carrying out its threats. That’s not to say the company won’t try though.
While the copyright trolls behind the movie Dallas Buyers Club failed in their quest to ‘fine’ pirates Down Under, a company like Village Roadshow that already has respect in the region would likely face fewer obstacles. It’s certainly possible, but still ill-advised.
Update: Internet Australia CEO Laurie Patton informs TorrentFreak that Burke is on a “suicide mission that can only piss off his customers.”
Patton says that the Hollywood-backed anti-piracy campaigners in Australia have never provided any plausible evidence of significant financial losses due to ‘unlawful’ downloading.
He also notes that last year’s inaugural site-blocking court cases only involved a handful of Internet Service Providers in a market where industry estimates suggest there are more than 250 ISP’s.
“As I told Mashable, it looks more like a PR exercise than a realistic counter to ‘piracy’. Even our Prime Minister, Mr Turnbull, has argued that making content more easily accessible at reasonable prices would be a better way to deal with the issue,” Patton says.