Turnbull urges timely release of content

Making entertainment content available in Australia at the same time or shortly after its overseas release, and at a comparable price, will reduce piracy, according to Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

“The greater the restrictions on the availability of content in Australia and the higher the cost relative to the rest of the world, the less public support there will be for whatever action is taken to sanction copyright infringers whether it is action by the ISP or a civil suit by the rights owners themselves,” Turnbull said on his website.

“If you make it hard and expensive to acquire content legally and at the same time it is easy and free to acquire it illegally and if the owners of that content are reluctant to take legal action against those who do acquire it illegally, well it’s pretty obvious, in the absence of any other sanction, that is going to incentivise copyright infringement.”

The Minister welcomed the public’s submissions to the government’s discussion paper released last week which makes a series of proposals to tackle illegal downloading and sharing of movies, TV shows and music.

Those measures include the blocking of websites that host pirated material and compelling ISPs to discourage or reduce online copyright infringement.

“We want to ensure that there is an appropriate framework in place that encourages industry cooperation and much greater public awareness about this issue,” he said

Turnbull referred to the New Zealand system in which ISPs are required to send a warning notice to customers who breach copyright. After the third such notice the ISP gives the details of the account holder to the content owner, who can decide whether to sue him or her.

“So far the music industry has used this scheme, but the movie industry has not, not least because the scheme requires the cost of sending the notices to be paid by the owners of the content the copyright in which has been infringed,” he said

The Minister acknowledged content owners do not want to sue individuals. He quoted Village Roadshow co-chairman Graham Burke, who told the Sydney Morning Herald that tactic would not work and would  clog up the courts.

“New Zealand has proven that that is ineffective and also the music industry has had a bad experience," Burke said. “New Zealand has graphically demonstrated that with the music industry, after spending a fortune for a small market on lawyers and legal costs, and taking often up to 18 months to go through the court system.”

Turnbull posed an interesting philosophical question, observing, "It is routinely asserted that most people want to do the right thing and that they 'don't understand' that downloading or sharing movies without paying for them is unlawful. If this assumption is correct then a series of warning notices may be enough to materially change behaviour and reduce piracy by a substantial percentage which, in reality, is probably all that one could reasonably hope to achieve.

"But what if people do know they are acting unlawfully but nonetheless would prefer to get stuff for free rather than pay any amount, no matter how small, and as long there is little or no chance of detection or sanction they will continue to do so."

The discussion paper can be downloaded from Submissions should be sent to: