Life Tech War on piracy heats up as company plans Australian crackdown

War on piracy heats up as company plans Australian crackdown

Fighting words: Village Roadshow's co-CEO is furious about content piracy. Photo: AAP
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Entertainment giant Village Roadshow will soon take steps to block yet more websites within Australia and work alongside online industry giants to make other copyright-infringing websites “disappear”.

The move marks the next phase of the company’s war on digital piracy, which includes an application to block 40 websites from access within Australia and partner with Google to remove links to offending websites from search engine results.

Graham Burke, co-founder and co-CEO of Village Roadshow speaks passionately about the threat these websites pose to the industry.

“They employ no one and steal tens of billions of dollars,” Mr Burke said.

“The criminal site, The Pirate Bay, has been stealing the creativity of Australia and is now shut down [within Australia], and we plan to knock out 40 more of these bastards.”

You shall not pass

In December 2016, after a successful application by Village Roadshow, the Federal Court ordered Australian Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block five offending websites in what was a major win for copyright holders.

The websites included known BitTorrent and piracy websites, such as Torrentz, TorrentHound, SolarMovie, IsoHunt and The Pirate Bay – the most notorious of torrent websites.

However, the effectiveness of these measures has been met with some criticism, due to the increasing number of free and easily accessible tools designed to negate such information blocks.

To circumvent site blocking and resume their normal, albeit infringing, behaviour, all users need to do is perform a Google search to find instructions on setting up and using a VPN network or TOR browser.

These services redirect local internet traffic, which would normally meet a site block, via another country, to effectively bypass any local restrictions.

It has been argued that a more effective strategy would be to address issues of price, access and timely delivery of content, rather than applying a band-aid solution that only offers a partial fix.

A fruitless search

Village Roadshow will also work with internet search giant, Google, to take down search results that contain links to websites with infringing content.

The aim is to remove sources of infringing media and give potential pirates only legitimate avenues to obtain content, at the same time revealing some websites for what they are.

“With all of the site blocking and takedowns by Google, people will realise they’re left with a sea of scammers and criminals,” Mr Burke said.

Individual downloaders could become targets

Village Roadshow will also continue working with Creative Content Australia – a collective of creative industry partners dedicated to raising awareness of the impact of digital piracy.

Village Roadshow co-CEO Graham Burke wants to rid the internet of torrent sites.
Village Roadshow co-CEO Graham Burke wants to rid the internet of torrent sites.

“[We will] enlighten people that piracy is not a victimless crime,” said Mr Burke.

“[Pirates] are costing people their jobs. The final extension of this situation, is that there will be no Red Dog. There will be no Lion. There will be no Muriel’s Wedding.”

Mr Burke has also signalled that the company will target individual downloaders, and issue offenders with a flat $300 fine for downloading infringing content.

The victims

For Cameron and Colin Cairnes – makers of Australian indie-horror film, 100 Bloody Acres – the impact of digital piracy is all too real.

Made locally with a budget of $2.3 million, the film took less than $20,000 in a single month at the Australian box office, but was downloaded more than 57,000 times during the same period.

Despite being a critical and fan success, the film lost close to half-a-million dollars in potential revenue per month to pirates.

What changes would you like to see in the Australian media landscape to improve the access and cost of legitimate content? Tell us in the comments below.