The Australian AG’s Argument For Making ISPs Enforce Anti-Piracy Laws Is Completely Illogical

Federal Attorney-General Senator George Brandis today suggested the government would like to introduce some kind of ‘three strikes’ policy to force ISPs to cut off serial torrenters and ensure that Australia retained a creative industry. Regrettably for Brandis, the chief example he used suggests that piracy isn’t a major issue.

Picture by David Mertl

Speaking at the Australian Digital Alliance’s Copyright Forum, Brandis said he wasn’t yet persuaded that the introduction of a fair use policy for copyright was warranted, despite an 18-month investigation by the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) recommending such a scheme. But he seemed much keener on the idea of introducing new penalties for torrenters:

The Government will be considering possible mechanisms to provide a ‘legal incentive’ for an internet service provider to cooperate with copyright owners in preventing infringement on their systems and networks.
This may include looking carefully at the merits of a scheme whereby ISPs are required to issue graduated warnings to consumers who are using websites to facilitate piracy.

And the example Brandis used to justify this?

The Great Gatsby, Australia’s most successful film at the local box office last year, is now centre stage after its haul of 13 AACTA Awards and an Oscar nomination. Unfortunately the success achieved by The Great Gatsby can lead to piracy of the film, placing the sustainability of our screen industry at risk.

The problem with this logic was neatly summed up in a subsequent presentation by Jordan Carter, CEO of Internet NZ, who noted that Gatsby had cost $100 million to produce but made $350 million in global box office revenue:

If Australian films are being ruined by making two and a half times what they cost, I think someone needs to do their sums a little bit more carefully.

A lack of logic has rarely stopped governments of any stripe introducing illogical policies relating to technology. We haven’t seen details of the suggested torrenting policy yet and there’s bound to be a lot of behind-the-scenes argument over it, but it’s definitely an issue to keep a close eye on.

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