Industry delegation fights piracy in the capital

Marta Dusseldorp, Equity president Simon Burke, Matt Day, Tina Bursill and Foxtel’s Bruce Meagher in Canberra. 

A delegation of producers, performers and broadcasters have spent the past two days in Canberra voicing concerns on the effect piracy is having on the Australian screen industry.

Actors Equity representatives (president Simon Burke, acting director Zoe Angus and actors Marta Dusseldorp, Matt Day and Tina Bursill) were joined by a number of representatives from Foxtel, SPA, Matchbox, Goal Post Pictures and Taylor Media in a series of meetings held in the nation’s capital on Monday and Tuesday.

“The aim was to keep the dialogue going between both the Government and the opposition to see what can be done about the increasing and continuing problems of illegal downloading,” Actors Equity President tells IF. “It’s always great to go to Canberra as an industry rather than individual stakeholders.”

Recent piracy figures have proved alarming; with a recent IPSOS and Oxford Economics study concluding 6,100 jobs were foregone across the economy with $1.37 billion in revenue lost over the last 12 months.

As a result, performers are growing increasingly concerned about the growing impact piracy has on their livelihood and the potential to build a sustainable career.

“It’s not just from an economic point of view,” Burke says. “I think there can be a public perception of this – and it’s something I think some people may not think about – that it’s all about studios and networks losing money. But it’s the individual people who work in this industry – the producers, performers, writers, directors – whose livelihood is threatened, as well as their ability to keep being involved.”

Also in attendance at the meetings were Attorney General and Minister for Arts George Brandis and Minister for Communications Malcolm Turnbull, Deputy Manager of Opposition Business Mark Dreyfus QC, Shadow Minister for Transport and Infrastructure and the Shadow Minister for Tourism Anthony Albanese.

Burke says responses from both the Government and the opposition were encouraging, but urged the powers-that-be to think beyond education as a strategy.

“The educative process has been in place for a number of years now and there have been some fantastic advocates for anti-piracy, some really high profile performers and the industry as a whole,” he says. “But we are of the view that education by itself is not going to work. We really need the government to step in and change the relevant legislation, to really do something about what is basically stealing.”

He also encouraged broadcasters to make their material available more quickly.

Of the meetings he adds: “The reception was overwhelmingly positive. There is clearly will from sides of politics to crack down on piracy. The solutions aren’t simple – we all know that – but there are big cultural and economic implications if we don’t find some.”

Further meetings are scheduled with Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten and Deputy Leader of the Opposition Tanya Plibersek.