It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to describe Australia’s current debate on internet piracy as one gigantic, unwieldy shitfight. In one corner, you have content providers; in another, internet service providers; in the other two, you have a pair of government ministers who should probably have their heads knocked together and be told to play nice.
Attorney General George Brandis and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull released a joint discussion paper on the subject of internet piracy last week, but The Guardian report that behind the scenes, the two are still fundamentally at odds when it comes to who should be responsible for policing internet pirates.
Brandis believes that internet service providers know damn well that everyone is pirating Game Of Thrones and The Hobbit and should be doing more to regulate users, and bearing more of the costs of a crackdown. Turnbull, on the other hand, says content providers, as the ones who are suffering the most losses, are attempting to fob the problem off onto the telecommunications industry.
Late last week, Turnbull caused a stir when he urged film studios to “roll up their sleeves” and deal with the problem directly to send a strong message. “They have got to be prepared to sue people; sue mums and dads and students who are stealing their content,” he said. “They can’t expect anyone else to do that for them.”
While the government argues about who should be responsible for chasing pirates, the fact still remains that Australia pays significantly higher prices for content than other nations, with comparatively less access. For instance, consumer magazine Choice have claimed that, overall, Australians paid 42% more than Americans did to see The Wolverine last year.
The fact that anyone had to pay anything at all to endure a screening of The Wolverine is in itself a bit unfair, but that’s a whole other rant.
Turnbull has acknowledged that high prices and poor access are issues in Australia. “Anyone is entitled to sell their products for whatever price they like, that is their right,” he said in an ABC radio interview last week, “but if you want to discourage piracy the best thing you can do is to make your content available globally, universally and affordably.”
Of course, if you live outside of a big city, you’re probably shit out of luck anyway thanks to Australia’s paltry internet speeds, and that NBN you may never actually get. ‘Straya.
Photo: Greg Wood via Getty Images