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Australia faces becoming a movie backwater despite the introduction of a fast fibre broadband network due to a decision by Perth based ISP iiNet to not support a scheme that identified “copyright abusers” claims Hollywood Studio executives.The move that could see Australia blocked from getting access to first run movies and TV content for pay TV services, such as Fetch TV, Foxtel, Smart TVs, PCs, tablets and smartphones, along with a new generation of digital set top boxes, follows a decision by iiNet to not support a scheme proposed by Hollywood studios and backed by Telstra and Optus.

The scheme would have resulted in illegal online copyright infringers being identified.

Earlier this year iiNet won a major legal battle in the High Court up against 34 of Hollywood’s biggest movie and television studios. The studios demanded iiNet identify “people who were stealing” movies by illegally downloading them claims the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT).

During the past few months, the Hollywood studios have worked closely with the carriers to establish a set of conditions that all parties supported in an effort to get movies released in Australia, similar to what US and European countries get.

IiNet, who has been accused of protecting criminal elements who “rampantly steal content,” is at this stage not saying why they have chosen not to support the trial in Australia that would have seen internet service providers pass on notices of alleged online copyright infringement.

“iiNet has informed the Communications Alliance, the government and the other ISPs involved in the discussions that it does not intend to participate in an industry-led trial, as currently envisaged, designed to test methods to deter online copyright infringement,” Communications Alliance chief executive John Stanton told The Australian newspaper.

The decision by iiNet to abandon the trial is a major blow to joint efforts by the Attorney-General’s department, the telco industry represented by the Communications Alliance, and copyright holders represented by anti-piracy group, the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft, who had to come up with a plan to battle copyright infringement in a manner that suited all stakeholders.

A senior executive for a major Hollywood studio said today “This is a big disappointment, we have the content and we want to do business in Australia but when you have one player who openly supports the actions of criminal elements one has to seriously question their reasons for doing this. The trial was a voluntary scheme and we may now have to lobby for a regulated enforceable scheme. I know that the Attorney Generals Department is open to this concept”.

 

Another industry executive told the Australian newspaper “Something has to be done. You can’t have a situation where copyright holders can’t enjoy the benefits of their content and rights.”

“We are happy to participate in discussions with the rights holders but they aren’t prepared to talk about the real problem. They only want to look at the symptoms,” iiNet chief regulatory officer Steve Dalby said. “Hollywood wants us to do the police work but aren’t prepared to address the cause of the problem. And the driving force of copyright infringement is the unavailability of content or high prices to access that content in Australia.”

AFACT boss Neil Gane said it was “disappointing that iiNet no longer wishes to participate in constructive discussion in finding a workable solution to rampant illegal downloading . . . Forward thinking ISPs, such as Telstra, fully recognise that content delivery is what will differentiate themselves going forward, especially in an NBN world.”

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