Village Roadshow Donated Millions While Tougher Privacy Laws Were Passed

Image: Getty Images

We've reported several times on the various take-down notices and site blocking orders dished out by the courts over the last year or so as rights-holders have fought back against services that share or facilitate access to copyrighted material without permission. But an analysis shows that while political donations by Village Roadshow aren't new, they spiked significantly at about the same time the current, tougher legislation was being developed and passed.

Last week, the government passed tougher laws, upping the ante on sites offering copyrighted material by compelling search engines to remove piracy websites from search results - a piece of legislation that I can imagine could be easily abused.

Village Roadshow donated about half a million dollars each year on roughly equal terms to Labor and the Coalition. There are some years when one side of politics scored more that the other. But in 2015-2016, the donations topped $1.2M after pulling right back last year. One assumes that the $1.2M and change delivered Village Roadshow's preferred outcome so there was no need to keep making such generous donations.

Image: The Guardian

Of course, as The Guardian reports - they conducted this important analysis - there's no way of knowing precisely when the donations were made as we lack that kind of transparency in or electoral donation laws. But the provision of donations, more or less on partisan lines when the parliament is tightly balanced, the passing of the laws and their favourability to Village Roadshow is probably just a coincidence - right?

New Online Piracy Laws: What Australians Need To Know

The federal government has tabled new draft legislation that will further empower rights holders as they try to block and take down sites that either directly distribute or enable access to licensed content. The Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2018 expands the scope of existing laws and will result in sections of the internet being blocked in Australia faster. Here's what you need to know.

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That's not to say the intent of the laws is wrong. But when the forces that influence the drafting and passing of laws are opaque then the purpose of the parliament is tainted. Instead of being our elected officials, the parliament could be seen to be acting in the interests of a small number of paying influential lobbyists who have access to lawmakers many of us can't imagine.

Village Roadshow CEO's Latest Piracy Letter To The Government Is A Bizarre Trainwreck And I Can't Look Away

On March 15, Village Roadshow's CEO, Graham Burke, penned a letter to the Department of Communications and the Arts, appealing for a review of the Copyright Online Infringement Amendment.

What that letter contains is an eye-opening range of claims - of Australia ending up "as bleak as a remote Bejing suburb", linking piracy with "drug selling" and "luring kids" into "criminal neighbourhoods that proliferate with prostitution" and insisting "wondrous Australian films are often more important than people we meet in shaping our world".

I couldn't make this up if I tried.

Read it in its glorious entirety here.

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Incidentally, on such matters it is worth writing to your local member. While you may think your one voice isn't influential it is important to have your say and for it to be recorded. Over the last few months, I've written to my local state and federal MPs as well as the local council over a local planning matter. And I wrote an email to my federal MP regarding the new encryption laws being considered.

My MPs both responded personally to my emails.

The power of well-funded lobby groups to influence laws needs to be curbed. While a majority of people in the United States favour tougher gun control laws, the federal government there is hamstrung by politicians who are heavily funded by lobby groups who are happy to maintain the status quo. That's a bad outcome, not just because of the impact of gun crime, but also because the will of the people has been subjugated by a small number of well funded groups.

Are the laws making life harder for content pirates a good thing? My feeling is that they are a good idea although I'd rather see the rights-holders reform their business model to make piracy a less attractive option. But the process, where one group who received substantial benefit from the laws following an opaque donation process, is broken.


Comments

    No surprise! This is how "democracy" works in the 21st Century... just ask Alan Jones who get to decide who "leads" our country whenever he feels like it.

    Thats just donations, how many events and movie tickets have they comped/gifted over the years.

    One thing to consider is this, just taking into account 2016 with it's 1.2million, movies are between $10-20 to see at most cinemas. You can get cheaper deals or be stung for more, but let's use $15 as an average. So they've effectively given away 80,000 in ticket sales for that year in an attempt to stop piracy.

    Then add up anti-piracy advertising costs, legal costs, DRM costs and so on. You have to start wondering whether they're actually in the black as a result of this. After all the amount usually claimed as a loss is generally grossly inflated for a couple reasons (like a download not equalling a view & a lost sale).

    It also makes me think the govt should be creating the copyright law then pulling it down every year or two just to goose Village Roadshow into making more donations. Nothing like a little extortion and bribery between friends.

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