Olivia Gee would like to implement swift social change in order to curb Australia’s illegal downloading habits…right after she finishes watching the last episode of Game of Thrones…


You wouldn’t steal a handbag.

Why not? It could be that you’re not keen on having a criminal record. A more influential deterrent may be the fact that this crime is directly inflicted by you upon a fellow human being. Perhaps this explains why many people today are so flippantly participating in online robbery. Downloading is a crime, but it doesn’t seem to be hurting anyone, so we just don’t seem to care.

Legislation under the Copyright Act 1968 and Trade Marks Act 1995 stipulate respective fines of $50 000 and $55 000 and up to 5 years imprisonment for infringement on copyright law. It’s not as if these are slap-on-the-wrist reprimands and if you have fifty grand to throw around in the first place, then just tell your man-servant to retrieve you a jester.

So, why does this supposed crime with supposed consequences not trouble us? It seems that Australia, proud world leader in illegal downloading, has simply gotten comfortable. There’s a general atmosphere that everyone’s downloading, no one is “getting done” for it, but more importantly, everyone is okay with you doing it.

Fairfax Media has reported, however, that our supply lines are being attacked. Attorney-General George Brandis and Communications Minister Malcom Turnbull are in the process of developing a submission to cabinet that proposes a block on websites hosting or linking to video material that infringes on copyright.

This submission will potentially obligate internet service providers to send notices of copyright infringement to consumers. It will also likely enable rights holders to seek an injunction in court that, if successful, could see ISPs forced to block websites hosting infringing content. That means farewell to Pirate Bay. The more radical and highly contentious notion that customers who use these sites should have download speeds and access to internet connection limited is unlikely to appear in the submission.

In light of internet users’ ability to navigate blocks by cloaking their Australian ISP with Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), these proposed regulations have been criticised as “futile”. Blocking all of Pirate Bay’s BitTorrent search engine brethren seems to be an unachievable ambition.

Yet the suggested alternative to harsh regulation of illegal downloading – greater access to content at lower costs – has been similarly disregarded. While the 2015 official introduction of Netflix into Australia may represent an alteration in the competitive environment of pay T.V., its effect on the piracy landscape is predicted to be minimal. In an interview with the ABC, analyst Steve Allan has suggested that those accessing copyright infringed content are unlikely to change their behaviour in response to Netflix offerings.

Regulation and enhanced choice, while noble efforts to curb online piracy, will only get us so far. A social shift away from the moral acceptability of “invisible crimes” such as downloading will be the real game changer…

…she said, as she opened her downloads library.


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