This article quotes News Corporation’s Australian boss Kim Williams decrying the prevalence of Australian’s illegally accessing media content online. He points to Australian’s profligate downloading of AMC’s hit television show Breaking Bad (1/6 of the total illegal downloads of the show emanated in Australia), as a cause for concern. His chief concerns voiced were that piracy ignores the “inherent value” of media content and shows a disregard for the laws that govern society. It must be considered that these opinions are coming from the chief of the largest media organisation in Australia. One which controls the only subscription cable service in the country; an industry vastly effected by online downloads, both illegal and otherwise.
However there are particular circumstances within Australia that prompt such high levels of media piracy. In fact, these were explored and detailed by a House of Representative committee on communications and infrastructure in their Inquiry into It Pricing. The committee found that Australian’s are subject to paying higher prices on digital media on sites such as Amazon and the Apple iTunes Store. The committee also noted that geoblocking makes accessing video streaming sites such as Netflix impossible from Australia.
Such restrictions mean that Australian’s have very few options to watch current premium media content. News Corporation’s Foxtel is one such option but requires consumers pay for many channels they would not choose to watch. Many people wish to access Foxtel solely for movies or sport but to access these channels one must pay nearly fifty dollars to access basic content which contains unwanted and repetitious programming. An online option akin to Netflix, Quickflix is available to Australian consumers but it is more expensive and contains less titles than its American counterpart.
A solution proposed by the House committee was to amend the Competition and Consumer Act to make geo-blocking Australian customers illegal. However Adam Turner (2013) suggests that it may be unwise to take on the might of Hollywood and Silicon Valley, as they could feasibly completely refuse to offer their services to Australian’s in a manner entirely within the law. Such posturing could also lead to issues regarding trade agreements to bring Hollywood movies to Australia, creating a political and cultural disaster.
While such an outcome would be disastrous for all consumers and the government must tread lightly, it is reassuring that this committee has recognised that Australian’s are being treated poorly. Given more options to access media content through online services, at a fair price and at the same time as the rest of the world I believe that Australian’s would largely cease to flout copyright law.
Turner, A 2013, ‘Australia should ‘ban’ geo-blocking: IT Pricing Inquiry’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 29 July, http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/computers/blogs/gadgets-on-the-go/australia-should-ban-geoblocking-it-pricing-inquiry-20130729-2qtxn.html.