Report: Australian Internet Pirates To Be Sued This Year [Updated]

Report: Australian Internet Pirates To Be Sued This Year [Updated]
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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.



  • Hmm… seems this might be a bit more likely to succeed if the “damages” are so low, especially if they’re after punitive damages. That’s a big difference from the tens of thousands that were being sought in the DBC case.

    Still probably won’t achieve what they want though – it certainly didn’t work in the US.

    • I remember in the Dallas Buyer Club case the judge asked for evidence of the damages that had been caused by the pirating of such content. That was required to justify any penalties that are to be handed on to a defendant.
      The only damages I can envisage is loss of profit, I’m sure they can make up a few other things. $2000 per instance, $200 per instance, I doubt they’ve even got grounds for that. In which case the financial penalty for such action can be no more than the cost of the content in the first place.

      The important part: If they can’t get at least thousands, maybe tens of thousands out of each individual than it will be impossible for them to afford the legal fees for every individual case to be processed in the court without loosing money on every case.

  • “[The blocks] have what is effectively 95 per cent of the criminal trade blocked,” said Creative Content Australia chairman Graham Burke

    No doubt that number is made up. From what I can tell, the blocks have had even less effect than in Europe where they even abandoned the move as it was just a waste of time and effort.

    On a side note, is it just me or is Burke making the most amount of noice despite the fact the company he works for has very little in terms of content?

    I’m all but certain that Burke is only doing this to keep his own job (and industry) alive despite being made redundant by streaming services.

  • The threats from the “Village” idiot show that either he has an ace up his sleeves or the blocking of “piracy” websites is having no impact and he’s clutching at straws to justify his own existence. I’m guessing it more of the later.

    Or maybe Dallas Buyers Club 2.0 will be played out with/against a more willing ISP/RSP. They need it to go through court for the precedent but it does not need to be hostile.

  • If we find that someone is infringing our content, we’ll send them a warning and we’ll also be suing them for damagesSo, a warning and a suit, well damn, time to start worrying! No wait, actually it’s time to make sure your VPN is up to date and running, you’ll be fine. But seriously, if they weren’t so ridiculously bellicose about it I might start to worry.

  • So Graham Burke and his quixotic mates spend all that time and money to get the government to pass laws forcing ISPs to stop access to the torrent sites, and they then spend more money getting the courts to enforce those laws, and Graham then virtually admits that the whole process up to this point has been a complete waste of time, because why else would he be threatening lawsuits against people who continue downloading when he’s supposedly stopped 95% of it.

    Answer: because he knows that a 6 year old trained monkey with an IQ above 40 can easily and secretly circumvent any and all of the measures that the ISPs have put in place, using Opera, or TOR or any one of thousands of free or low cost VPNs, or combinations thereof. Poor old Graham. What a loser.

  • What sucks about this is that basically everyone is in agreement that if shows are provided cheap, convenient to access and on time that they would stop pirating stuff. The only reason to pirate game of thrones is that to watch the whole season on the night of release it costs over $150 AUD plus equipment fees and crap like that . Buying the physical blu-ray that you can keep costs half of that. I bounce between stan and netflix while having a crunchyroll sub and to tag on another $70 per month for a service which might not even work (Which is 4 times what I pay for crunchyroll and netflix combined) is just ridiculous.

    I know they will keep failing at this, It’s a shameless money grab by a bunch of corporate suits that don’t understand that australian are not a personal bank for their convenience.

  • Want to stop piracy..?? SURE..!!! I don’t mind paying $1 per hour of content, IF I get to torrent download it from a decentralised torrent service provider AND that the said media is in a commonly used file format (ie. mpeg, mkv, mp4 etc), not some proprietary format AS WELL AS that the said file MUST NOT have and DRMs embedded in them. That is so that I can watch what I downloaded offline, whenever I want, wherever I am and on whatever device I choose to watch it on.

    That $1 per hour of content can go towards the paying for the hosting servers, paying the actual scriptwriters and production crews etc. WHY should I be paying Foxtel or HBO anything if they are not raising the salaries of those that actually produced the shows..?? I think the producer of Game of Thrones made that comment back in Season 2 Episode 1… that episode was downloaded like over 1million times just in Australia alone, let alone internationally.. now, imagine if the production team got even like $0.95 per download, the other 5 cents being the upkeep of the torrent servers, how much better the show could have been..??

    And at $1 per hour of content, being cheaper than even a cup of coffee, more people will be more willing to pay and perhaps even ‘police’ the community WITHOUT having to actually involve any formal government agencies, thus having substantial cost savings to governments and countries.

    Also, what do companies like Fox and HBO make artists, writers etc sign..?? there’d be a clause in the contract that would go along the lines of whatever works you produce is not your property but the company’s… ie, signing over the intellectual property rights to the company. And these companies then turn around and cry foul on piracy when they have just forced/coerced another person to sign away their own rights..?? It’s not even about protecting the rights of the artists but the bottomline of the company’s annual profits…!! That’s just as bad as Mafia styled extortion and double dippnig..!!

    It’s the digital age… it’s the Internet… content providers need to seriously rethink how they do business in this age… People can’t be ‘pirating’ anything if everything is openly accessible and there is nothing is left to ‘pirate’

  • I heard there’s this thing called the onion router, where sites which are often blocked on the web possess an alternate access point which has very high uptime.

    In a public forum such as this, it would be wrong of me to strongly advocate seeking such places 🙂

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