IPAF, get with it.

Imagine a world where you can only consume culture from government-approved sources, months after its widely publicised release overseas, in low definition, with long term lease agreements where you can never purchase a copy to own, only to borrow and use within a specific set of technologically locked parameters. Where the freedom to share or own copies of cultural works has finally been stamped out and middlemen are free to charge what they like for mediocre services and innovation is locked in a box then dropped into an ocean abyss.

This is a response to the article “Stop, thief! Your 15 minutes of free downloads is killing a lifetime of great Aussie moments” by former Queensland Premier and independent chairman of the National Association of Cinema Owners, Peter Beattie.

In global terms Australia is a small market that has powered through the global financial crisis with barely a scratch. Despite having a small and comparatively agile market, our movie and television industries are stuck in the dark ages of broadcast television delays and physical media distribution. They provide limited availability of low-quality advertising supported streaming services and are continuing to ignore the market demand for local content with better availability. They continue to stagnate with the rest of the worldwide movie and television industries. They continue to complain about their biggest fans, the people who statistically spend more money on movies and television than any other demographic, those horrible Internet pirates.

Producing a film in Australia, even after the usual Hollywood accounting, does attract money into our economy, time and time again, despite “rampant” piracy. If a good film is produced it earns millions of dollars. All of the top pirated movies generally do. Online piracy, just like offline piracy which has existed as long as copyright has, hurts nobody, provides free advertisement, and yet has always been used as a scapegoat for Hollywood accountants.

It is unfortunate that too many middlemen feel that the world owes them millions for their continued lack of innovation and rent seeking. Money spent on movies and music continues to rise, despite the global financial crisis and the ever increasing number of online file-sharers. Musicians, software and video game developers are providing new successful and innovative systems for distribution and sales, sports people continue to hit extremely lavish salary caps and the movie industry continues to thrive and pour millions of dollars into anti-piracy campaigns that lobby governments to kill free speech and privacy as collateral damage to profit protection, instead of using that money to innovate and provide a better service than some guys in their basement can do with their spare time. Those same pirates could probably help out if you asked them nicely.

It is not hard to sell timely, high quality releases for a reasonable cost without technological restrictions. Currently Hollywood is earning enough from the old way of doing things to bother with innovative new markets. If it continues to fail at this entrepreneurial level, then it will quickly become irrelevant, replaced by those who have embraced other methods and are already earning money in the Entertainment sector by providing people what they want via subscription, advertisement support or crowd sourced funding.

I find it easy to understand that people would ignore the copyright monopoly in favor of convenient high quality alternatives. Who wants to be locked down to a web connection or forced to jump through hoops when you can watch a pirated version in high definition on the train or at the gym or in bed or anywhere else you like? When you can share the experience with a friend and you can even get more accurate subtitles for hearing impaired viewers and language support for foreign films?

Research was conducted for the Intellectual Property Awareness Foundation by Sycamore research and marketing, a partnership between two women that have done all of IPAF’s research since March, 2009 (two months after IPAF formed). Sycamore’s latest report has been compiled from 1654 people. This research found that 10 per cent of Australians were persistent illegal downloaders while 17 per cent were casual illegal downloaders. Unfortunately the research neglected to indicate how much money these illegal downloaders spend on movies and music, feeling this data would be out of scope for such a limited and one-sided study run to provide thinly veiled ammunition for lobbyists taking politicians out to dinner.

Who is IPAF? The Intellectual Property Awareness Foundation is a lobby group speaking for Foxtel, Austar, Motion Picture Association of America, Australian Entertainment Distributors Association, Motion Pictures Distributors Association Australia, Australian Cinema Exhibitors Coalition, franchise Entertainment Group, independant cinema association of Australia, Sony Digital Audio Disc Corporation, Australian independent distributors association and Screenrights. And they support AFACT, another organisation representing Disney, Sony, 20th Century Fox, Paramount, Village Roadshow, Universal, Warner, and the Motion Picture Association of America. This support is not surprising as IPAF started out life as a side project of AFACT, the IP Awareness Trust, before becoming its own entity in 2009 and hiring a local ex-politician.

In the United States of America there is legal precedence from 1985 stipulating that interference with copyright does not easily equate with theft and infringers of copyright are never referred to as thieves in law, only as committing Copyright infringement, so the very name of AFACT is a charade. As Copyright is a legal statute not a physical item it cannot really be stolen, the custodian of a monopoly on the distribution of a particular creative work, can transfer this copyright however be swindled by others wishing to benefit financially from the work.

Both AFACT and IPAF are fronts to make big media seem more official than they are, when in reality they are simply multinational corporations begging the government to help sustain their business models. Using words like “awareness,” “federation,” “trust” and “foundation” they put forward an authoritative and downtrodden facade, so you feel sorry that they haven’t made enough billions this year. In reality it is merely scare tactics and throwing big piles of money at news outlets and governments to protect their dying distribution monopoly which is no longer needed, no longer wanted, and will very soon no longer provide any benefit to society or culture.

Some research conducted for IPAF found that 78 percent of Australians surveyed had agreed that there were increasing numbers of options to legally lease and stream movies and TV, however none were surveyed as to the ease of use, quality of the services, the cost of the services or timely availability of popular content that is usually pirated, Again for some reason this line of questioning was not considered to be relevant.

One thing is clear: the government needs to protect human rights, and ensure our industry and job market do not collapse, weighed down by patent and copyright war chests. The IPAF continues to not offer a single solution beyond crying Iike a baby when the stagnating business practices of their contributing international movie studio backers continue to stall in a market that demands innovation.

All Internet providers in Australia argue against censorship and data retention because it IS an affront to our Fundamental Human rights. We have a right to private communications, granted by article 12 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Education is key. Our legislation is not suddenly irrelevant because new technology makes it easier and faster to sell to a large worldwide market, but being a stick in the mud and refusing to innovate in the digital age will prove fatal to a lot of industries, and just as refrigerator owners do not pay an ice tax to the ice importing industry every time they want an ice cube, the citizens with almost free and instantaneous distribution access for digital Content are not to blame for expecting appropriately priced and instantaneous access to digital content.

This is a problem that can be solved easily by innovation and providing customers what they want, instead of wrapping them in chains. Copyright monopoly presents an Important ideal for the moral protection of artists from exploitation by industry, currently it only ensures that. To ignore the problem is to encourage exploitation of artists by greedy corporate entities, and the destruction of privacy and the public domain of creative arts by those same entities.

For no reason at all, this article will now talk about commercial manufacturing and sale of counterfeit goods in an attempt to conflate the issue of commercial counterfeit manufacturing into private copyright infringement and therefore make it sound more like theft instead of a private civil infringement of a commercial monopoly, Pirate Party Australia stand against commercial infringement of copyright and commercial trademark infringement.

Copyright was originally envisioned to protect businesses from exploitation by other businesses and protect artists reputation and earnings. Current copyright law does none of this and Pirate Party Australia is calling for a Reform to Copyright law to protect artists and promote innovation.

If we fail to tackle ongoing corporate lobbying of government officials to destroy our privacy and reform copyright to protect artists and citizens from the marauding monopoly that are the middlemen of Hollywood, we will continue to be forced to watch cheap re-runs of Hollywood discards and any Australian actors of any talent will continue living in Hollywood with American accents. Movies such as Red Dog will not be made as due to a failure to innovate the Australian film industry will die and the future Jack Thompsons may never make it to the silver screen.

Image credit: Promotional shot from the locally produced film ‘Australia’