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Find a better way to share content? We might as well be talking to a brick wall

Internet piracy talks with AFACT is like talking to a brick wall

It’s quite clear that finding a new business model for sharing content is a key issue facing the entertainment industry, particularly in light of iiTrial. Copyright legislation needs to change to serve the changing needs of both the rights holders and the expectations of online consumers.

Try telling that to an organisation like the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT) – you might as well be talking to a brick wall.

Consumers are talking, but who is listening?

Hollywood had the brainwave that the regional strategy to tackle copyright issues in Australia was to introduce harsher legislation, to criminalise Internet users who seek alternative means of accessing content in their preferred format, at a time that is convenient for them.

Hollywood have ignored this consumer demand for so many years now that multiple alternatives for the acquisition of content have not only been designed, built, adopted and thoroughly commoditised, they have become totally mainstream, with less tech savvy users readily using them.

Same conversation, same obstacles

The upcoming Attorney General’s Department forum to discuss online copyright issues will involve rights holders, ISPs, government and consumer representative.

I don’t need a crystal ball to tell you that the likely conclusion will be negligible change; as has been the situation since the 2005 Australia – US free trade agreement was signed.

Little, if anything at all, is to be gained by engaging with rights holders for a commercial solution.

Consumers willing to pay the price

AFACT says that “Nothing can compete with free” but we all know how effective iTunes has been in this space as a viable, paid-for model. A late run in the US has seen the likes of Netflix and Hulu also offer paid alternatives to pirated content, but not here.

On a very different front, the bottled water industry seems to be doing a fair job against competing with ‘free’, so perhaps the rights holders are simply not thinking about it in the right way. It seems all the protestations about ‘competing with free’ are all noise and no substance.

Government intervention in an industry issue?

AFACT’s position in Australia has long been a call for government intervention with tougher legislation, but most people understand that to have effective laws, effective policing is also required.

It is clear the P2P (peer-to-peer) file sharing technology highlighted in iiTrial is only one of the techniques used by copyright infringers. Although the P2P detection methods described in the trial may have been useful at one point, new techniques going by names such as trackerless torrent, magnets, infected swarms, VPNs and HTML streaming are also prevalent.

Now that the High Court has determined that Australian ISPs have no responsibility to police a third party’s rights and that Internet account termination is not an option for rights holders to pursue, another approach is necessary.

Seeing reason

AFACT and other rights holder bodies don’t care much for consumers. As you may have read, Neil Gane of AFACT thinks consumers are “unreasonable” to tell their suppliers of entertainment what they want. Actually, AFACT don’t have any customers in Australia, they are all in California, which unfortunately means that consumer pressure is unlikely to have much impact on their strategies.

iiNet have suggested that they focus on what the market is demanding, but it’s a waste of breath. Their masters have set the agenda and rights holders will only do their bidding.

Gane has made repeated calls for legislative change over time and that’s where AFACT’s future efforts will focus on, not taking into account consumer demands. The attorney general’s departmental forum is not designed to contribute to such legislative change and so I’m not expecting the process to generate any satisfaction for consumers or distributors.

Australia will not get anything useful from the rights holders in 2012 and in that respect, very little has changed since 2005. We did get clear and total rejections of all proposals put to them by the Telco industry to limit infringements, but due to the events of the past seven years, those offers are no longer on the table.

A solution needs to be found but as far as AFACT goes, you might as well be talking to a brick wall.

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13 comments

  1. Arjen Lentz says:

    Bottled water is a convenience, and that’s what’s sold (convenience), not water as such. This is important to remember.
    (note that water out of our home tap isn’t free either – but that’s irrelevant to this issue).

    When I go to the cinema, we don’t go to see a movie, we go out for an evening of entertainment – this also explains why Event Cinema’s Gold Class occupies a pretty decent niche.

    Free isn’t necessarily convenient. Free in fact always has a price, even if non-monetary. I do agree that free has intrinsic problems as it creates a feeling of entitlement while not engaging the usual concept of reciprocity (you do something for me, I give you something back).
    So, having a paid-for product that could be acquired elsewhere for free is perfectly sensible and common.

    I would happily do micropayments to follow the series and programs I want, with a simple intermediary between me and the producers. This would also mean that the audience is directly engaged and intrinsically global, and thus a good series would continue even if the advertising revenue in a particular region diminishes.

  2. Dennis says:

    It’s been reported that Game Of Thrones is the most pirated TV show at the current time.

    There is a campaign to get HBO to create an online only subscription option http://takemymoneyhbo.com/

    It doesn’t look good though http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/tv-column/post/internet-only-hbo-service-network-says-dont-hold-your-breath/2012/06/06/gJQAVH2bJV_blog.html

  3. Lachlan Hunt says:

    Wonderful post. Thank you for providing the slightest bit of transparency into what has been going on in these secret talks. Of course, it seems everything the rights holders want is basically what they want around the world – tougher regulations and enforcement with no respect for consumer rights or needs.

  4. GT says:

    too right. A great example of the bottled water industry.
    The sooner these idiots get their businesses marginalised by another business that actually has a clue (such as Apple did to the music industry) the better. The movie industry seems unable to see what is blindingly obvious to just about everyone else – if you treat your customers with disdain then you don’t have a long-term business.

  5. Rebecca Ore says:

    Apple won’t sell you anything if your country doesn’t match the country of your credit card issuer, and doesn’t track IP addresses so the barrier is trivial to circumvent even though circumventing it is against Apple’s TOS (give your address on the Apple web page as a friend’s address in the country you want to shop in and have someone there sent you iTunes gift cards).

  6. Fourbypete says:

    No longer do I or my friends want a room full of dvd’s or blu ray disks filling our lounge rooms only to collect dust! If the movie industry don’t find a way to supply there content via a digital means then they will find themselves out of business real soon!

  7. Chandler says:

    I’ll copy a post I made on CNET’s similar article verbatim, as I feel it gets at least my opinion across fairly well.

    ——————

    If the media industry is serious about stopping piracy, they need to do a few things (in my opinion):

    #1 – Ditch DRM.
    Why, when I have paid for a piece of media, am I restricted in which devices I can play it on. If I go buy a DVD, I can play it in any DVD player I wish – the same should apply to digital media. Yes, it makes it easier for pirates to copy, but it makes the buyer’s experience so much easier that they are less likely to turn to pirates… and, lets face it: every (?) form of DRM eventually gets cracked. Save your money.

    #2 – Release Stuff
    As noted in the article, a lot of Australians pirate content as they do not want to wait the 3-6 months for it to be released in Australia. Release media faster. I don’t know if this is the US companies being slow or overcharging, or the Australian stations being slow or frugal, but sort it out…
    Further to release schedules – release quality. The fact that Game of Thrones did not release HD on iTunes in Australia when it released SD is a bit of a slap in the face – what, do we not have HD TV’s?

    #3 – Pricing
    Why does it cost me $5-6 to rent a movie via Video Unlimited? It costs me the same down at my local Blockbuster: they have more costs (more staff, more maintenance, more rent, etc.), and I can also take that DVD over to my mates place or wherever I like and play it as much as I like during the rental period.
    Plus I would also like to be able to buy content rather than just rent. If I can rent it – let me buy it (#1 also applies to the purchasing…)

    I’m sure there’s more, but I think those are the killer 3.

  8. Matt Bentley says:

    “how effective iTunes has been in this space as a viable, paid-for model.”

    Uh.
    You need to do some research kid.
    Consumer expectation has nothing to do with what should or shouldn’t be. A sustainable industry does not work that way.
    That’s why 99% of the songs on iphones/ipods that get sent into apple for warranty repairs are pirated material.

    DRM works, whether you like it or not. It doesn’t deter hardcore pirates, it deters the masses, who aren’t.
    Steam is a good example of DRM working.

    Most consumers won’t pay for content when they have an option not to. This is ratified by any number of statistics, whether it’s In Rainbows, Indie Humble Bundle, or NiN Ghosts.

    Why not just wait. When I was a kid, it took years for movies to make it here, and not all of them did, but we were happy to see them. Maybe you’re just a little bit too demanding, if you Need to see your tv series/film/whatever on demand, NOW.
    Or maybe you’ve just got too much time on your hands.
    Cheers,
    Matt

  9. Interesting Post
    Is debate has been going on the last 10 years and with Bit Torrent the main p2p protcol it has helped the ease of p2p dramicly and increase in use.
    But the core issues of why we pirate media/shows has been the same and not being fixed by companys, Anti pirating groups, goverments , media corp.

    It seems the commerical funded anti rights and Anti “pirating” companies put so much goverment/private money into stoping people using peer2peer/pirating.
    When they still do not look into the issue is WHY WE DO IT IN THE FIRST PLACE and what they can change to stop us wanting to do it as often.

    #1 – BAN DRM
    It only impacts Legit paying consumers and restricts what they can play media on or how.
    Things like you must have the Internet always 24/7 to play a single player game seems stupided and un needed.
    Another recent change to DRM annoying features is the extended “anti pirating” ads on DVD/Blueray , guess what if you bought the disc you see it
    If you pirate the movie , you dont get to see it at all , so in the end your annoying the legit consumer.
    I still can’t play shop bought AU blueray discs with Media Player Classic HC or VLC.(Instead I have to use powerdvd/windvd or pop it in the external player)

    #2 – Release Media/Games/Software – Same time , Same cost, be FAIR
    Australians are sick and tired for the last 10 or so years having the “Australia Tax” added onto Movies, Software and games.
    Australians are sick and tired having to wait weeks/months/year for the same media content/software/games to come to our shores.
    When it finaly comes to our shores its often double or TRIPPLE the cost , why ?

    #3 – Pricing
    Why do Australians get slaped with the Australia tax for Retail and DIGITAL STORE items .

    When steam came out I thought great, this is a way we might finnaly get EQUAL pricing around the world
    and software coming out the same day. No , instead AU/NZ gets higher prices, often a reduced “mature” edition
    with the cool bits removed because the goverment is still set in the 1970s and refuse to release a R rating for games/software.

    Diablo 3 was the most recent game to be effected. For Single player you need to be online on its master server (bit like a mmo server)
    If you bought off the USA store in USA it ended up being 56 Australian dollars. But if yo bought off the USA store from AU , its 80 AU dollars.
    For the same product off the same extact store , no shipment costs as its transmitted over the internet the same as the US customers.

    US fair trade ? What fair trade ? Ive never seen it apply to anyone outside USA.

    #4 Delay in AU movie releases
    In 2011 and 2012 this finnaly got addressed but for a long time you could pirate the USA Retail DVD Rlease
    before the AU movies had it shown localy . R5’s were added to the Rusian market , but that just made quick
    dvd quality movies for the US/rest of the world as the R5 digital copies are the R5 dvd discs with TS/Cam english audio.

    #5 Tv Shows
    TV Rating system needs to be overhauled a lot . Currently it seems an overseas USA/Canada show rating goes on one channel at the first
    airing , if it fails to air great on one station , then its canceled globaly .

    Often TV shows have aired a whole season or half a season and canceled even before it even airs the pilot or ep 01 in Australia (Probly other countrys aswell)
    Yet when it comes to TV ep boxsets, the companys want the globe to buy the dvd/bluerays.

    RELEASE TV SHOWS AROUND THE WORLD THE SAME WEEK , even if this means its SUBBED (not dubbed) for non english speaking regions .
    Im pretty sure with scifi shows like stargates , treks , eurukas , etc it would of been better to record the global viewing
    on the same day in USA, Canada , UK , EU, AU/NZ .

    In the end . Austrlians want to be able to buy/view products for the SAME extact cost, the same extact time around the world without DRM.

  10. Ralph says:

    While companies insist on charging Australian more for content than they do in the US I feel robbed. As I am being robbed they will have. Excuse me for robbing them right back.

    It’s not just the retail price but also the cash back incentives and free bees that the US enjoy. I think our government should make region coding illegal and allow true parallel importing.

    I happily buy ebooks from amazon but I will never buy content on iTunes that costs more than it does in the US.

  11. Stringy says:

    @Chandler – #3 – The Movie Producers treat online almost exactly the same as a video store. The set a minimum royalty and then a % of revenue over the minimum payment, leaving the vendor – Blockbuster, Bigpond Movies or whoever to set the price as they like, as long as they get their big cut.

    Even if everyone in the country watched a movie online the retailer would be getting a fraction of the income, meanwhile its rivers of gold for the producers!

    Obviously they dont want to change their business model

  12. Matt H says:

    Matt seems to call iTunes a flop, yet provides no evidence. Paid Astro-Turfer methinks….

    Anyway, I posted this to another forum but it’s quite relevant here.

    The biggest problem is that the TV and Music industry both make their money through The Bundle. They know all too well they if they start letting people only pay for the shows they want, then the revenue will drop through the floor. Foxtel costs… what… $80-120/m? In reality, people only watch 3, maybe 4, premium (things they would pay for) shows per week.

    If we break that down to $2 per episode per week, we get a grand total of ( $2 * 4eps * 4wks ) $32/m. So their revenue drops by up to ~70% per customer. Some people will spend more… Most people will spend less. And that’s the problem. It’s the same reason music was always bundled in an Album.

    The only way it will resolve itself is if the studios are taken out of the equation and the show is distributed directly by the creators.

    Also note that AFACT exists solely to fight against piracy. If you take away piracy, you take away AFACT’s paycheque. So how is it in their best interest to provide a legal solution?

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