Australian pirates have just been put on notice. The chairman for Creative Content Australia - a consortium of rights holders that counts Foxtel, Village Roadshow and the Australian Screen Association (ASA) among its members - has issued a stern warning to anyone who continues to access pirated content. In short, you can expect to be sued this year.
Update: A previous version of this story mistakenly attributed Graham Burke's comments to Creative Content Australia. CCA is an industry initiative that seeks to raise awareness of the value of screen content and copyright, and the impact of content theft. It does not personally engage in legal action against pirates.
The announcement follows the government-imposed blacklisting of more than 60 piracy sites in Australia. If you're one of the many Australians who has been circumventing the blocks, it's time to start worrying.
After successfully lobbying the government to force internet service providers (ISPs) to block so-called piracy websites and associated domain names, the rights holders are preparing to come after individual infringers. If you've been torrenting season 7 of Game Of Thrones instead of paying Foxtel, this means you.
"[The blocks] have what is effectively 95 per cent of the criminal trade blocked,” said Creative Content Australia chairman Graham Burke, better known as the co-CEO of Village Roadshow.
But it appears the industry doesn't think these trade blocks go far enough. In an interview with the AFR, Burke dropped the following bombshell (emphasis ours):
We plan, later this year, to sue any individual that continues to download pirated content. If we find that someone is infringing our content, we’ll send them a warning and we’ll also be suing them for damages.
Burke went on to say that the damages being sought would be in the region of a "speeding fine". Depending on the type of penalty Burke was alluding to, this could be anywhere between $80 and $2000+ per infringement.
It's worth noting that this isn't the first time Burke has threatened to sue pirates in Australia. In a 2015 interview on SBS 2's The Feed, Burke said: "[Pirates] have been warned, notices issued that they have been doing the wrong thing. Yes we will sue people. [These people] have been doing the wrong thing, and they’ve been sent appropriate notices, and [they will be] dealt with accordingly."
We're mildly surprised to see Creative Content Australia's chairman issue threats in this manner. The organisation bills itself as "an educational initiative committed to raising awareness about the value of screen content, role of copyright and impact of piracy."
On its website, the organisation lists Research, Consumer Campaigns and Education Resources as the three key areas it works in. Nowhere does it mention prosecuting pirates.
In response to this story, CCA Executive Director Lori Flekser issued the following statement:
"CCA is not engaged in any legal action against pirates but we fully support any action taken by our stakeholders that defends the tens of thousands of Australian professionals who earn their living in the creative industries, bringing incredible Australian stories to the small and big screen.”
Nevertheless, it would seem the organisation's current chairman - in his capacity as the co-CEO of Village Roadshow - would rather substitute the carrot for the stick.
So what does all this mean for pirates? Presumably, before any litigation can take place, rights holders will need to compel ISPs to hand over the billing information of customers suspected of infringing. In others words, we could be about to see Dallas Buyers Club 2.0 play out in court. We'll be updating this story as soon as we have more information.