Feeds

Australia threatens Adobe, Apple, with geo-blocking ban

IT pricing inquiry finds no reason for higher prices, suggests using VPNs

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Australia's Parliamentary inquiry into IT pricing has found no plausible reason hardware, software and digital downloads costs more down under, and recommended changes to copyright law so locals can access cheaper goods.

The Inquiry kicked off last year, as a part-populist, part-sensible probe into why Australian consumers and businesses are often asked to pay up to 50 per cent more than those in other developed nations for the very same goods.

The Inquiry went so far as to insist that representatives from Apple, Adobe and Microsoft front a public hearing to explain their pricing policies. Adobe's Paul Robson was wretched as he tried to explain why even Creative Cloud costs more in Australia than elsewhere, after saying local packaging and transport costs were the reason the company's wares are more expensive in Australia than elsewhere. Microsoft more or less toughed it out with a “we charge what we want to and/or think we can get away with” attitude, while Apple blamed higher download prices on music and movie rights holders and the vagaries of territorial copyright, rather than its own policies.

The Inquiry's final report emerged today and concluded “the price differences for IT products cannot be explained by the cost of doing business in Australia. Particularly when it comes to digitally delivered content, the Committee concluded that many IT products are more expensive in Australia because of regional pricing strategies implemented by major vendors and copyright holders.”

That'll play well domestically, and five of the recommendations penned by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications may also raise eyebrows elsewhere, as they would be very interesting precedents if adopted.

Those recommendations suggest Australia:

  • Remove restrictions on parallel/gray market imports;
  • Changes its Copyright Act “to clarify and secure consumers’ rights to circumvent technological protection measures that control geographic market segmentation”;
  • Create a “right of resale” for digital goods
  • Educate Australian consumers and businesses on how to circumvent geoblocking and what it will mean for their rights;
  • A ban on geo-blocking “as an option of last resort, should persistent market failure exist in spite of the changes … recommended in this report.”

The second recommendation is tantamount to legitimising VPNs for avoiding copyright controls, which would throw the cat among the pigeons for the likes of Hulu and the BBC. The latter recently signed a new deal with Australian pay TV operator Foxtel to create a dedicated Australian channel after receiving an offer said to be rather larger than the sum Australia's national public broadcaster, the ABC, could match.

If Australia clarifies the use of VPNs, allowing people to easily watch Hulu or iPlayer for free rather than Foxtel's subscription service, one imagines Australian courts will quickly become rather busy.

The report also ponders whether its recommendations are feasible in the context of Australia's participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a controversial and largely-secret trade treaty considered a close relative of SOPA and ACTA inasmuch as it is thought to insist on tight trans-border copyright restrictions.

Intriguingly, the Committee received a response from Australia's Attorney General's Department stating that it does not feel Australia's Copyright Act needs to change in order to comply with the TPP. That's noteworthy because, to date, no official TPP text has reached the public. The mere hint that TPP won't require a change will set some pulses racing. ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
Scrapping the Human Rights Act: What about privacy and freedom of expression?
Justice minister's attack to destroy ability to challenge state
WHY did Sunday Mirror stoop to slurping selfies for smut sting?
Tabloid splashes, MP resigns - but there's a BIG copyright issue here
Hey Brit taxpayers. You just spent £4m on Central London ‘innovation playground’
Catapult me a Mojito, I feel an Digital Innovation coming on
Google hits back at 'Dear Rupert' over search dominance claims
Choc Factory sniffs: 'We're not pirate-lovers - also, you publish The Sun'
EU to accuse Ireland of giving Apple an overly peachy tax deal – report
Probe expected to say single-digit rate was unlawful
Inequality increasing? BOLLOCKS! You heard me: 'Screw the 1%'
There's morality and then there's economics ...
While you queued for an iPhone 6, Apple's Cook sold shares worth $35m
Right before the stock took a 3.8% dive amid bent and broken mobe drama
EU probes Google’s Android omerta again: Talk now, or else
Spill those Android secrets, or we’ll fine you
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.