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News Ltd's Australian chief demands copyright overhaul

Wants anti-piracy role for National Broadband Network

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The head of News Ltd's Australian outpost has urged for an overhaul of copyright laws to take on the “copyright kleptomaniacs” and “digital suckers” that are robbing the Australian economy of AUD$1.37 billion annually in pirated film and TV content.

Addressing the film industry at the Movie Convention, News Ltd CEO Kim Williams called for an immediate push to combat the “truly astounding levels of intellectual theft” currently being perpetrated against the content industry, warning that the advent of the National Broadband Network will only accelerate the current issues.

“Internet piracy has become the biggest heist since Ronnie Biggs took an interest in trains,” Williams quipped.

Williams warned that the deployment of Australia's National Broadband Network and the quadrupling of internet traffic by 2016 will make matters even worse, undermining the business case of cultural production to a greater extent than ever before.

“Whilst there is endless talk about the NBN there is yet to be any formal acknowledgement that the legislative and enforcement frameworks are disastrously outmoded and defective to sustain any relevance in confronting a modern high speed digital delivery world,” he claimed.

The former chief of pay TV outfit Foxtel said that the Australian production and distribution industry requires renovated legal underpinnings that acknowledge the primary right of copyright owners to exploit their work and some surety that theft will be prevented and punished equally.

“I am asking for a new set of copyright laws that protect our work from theft. And I’m asking for copyright laws that will also protect the singers of songs, writers of books and producers of games,” he stated.

He said that unless these core commercial underpinning are established, the outlook for the digital entertainment industry would be grim. “Without immediate and wholesale makeover we are condemning our nation to relentless criminal rip-off and plunder of original IP on an unprecedented scale which will make the current 65 percent rate of consumption being of stolen material look like a pathetically modest nun's picnic.”

Williams called for changes in the law that would make it clear who is responsible to stop piracy.

That burden could rest on ISPs.

“Internet Service Providers must take responsibility too to tackle the problem of repeat offenders who use their networks. IPAF consumer research has found 73 percent say they would stop if that notification came with a threat to slow down or halt downloading if their illegal downloading continued,” he said.

Williams targeted Australia's nascent fibre-to-the-premises NBN as having “a special duty of care” to provide a safe super-highway for our digital economy. He claimed that the publicly-created NBN should be expected to act as a model digital network, setting the ethical, legal and commercial standards for the rest of the industry to follow and called for it to be included in any code and be obligated to take reasonable steps to stop piracy. ®

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