Let downloads roam free, says ACCC

Parallel imports for all, including 'net content

Australia's consumer regulator, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, is pushing back against calls to ban accessing offshore content with means such as VPNs, in a submission to an inquiry into copyright legislation.

The competition regulator reckons parallel importation should be available in every market, including Internet content – especially if the content owner doesn't offer access from local services. It also warns against passing laws that would let big content fire off threats at people who aren't actually breaking the law.

The ACCC's submission to the inquiry into the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015 (PDF here), says the copyright sector has form. IP owners have a record of using court action “to prevent the legitimate sale of copyright goods”, the regulator notes.

With a side-glance, perhaps, at the direction the Dallas Buyers Club lawsuit against iiNet is taking, the regulator says the copyright amendments should protect consumers from threats and intimidation.

The regulator says it would be concerned if “copyright owners were able to inappropriately threaten” consumers, to “intimidate” them to stop them from “accessing legitimate goods from other jurisdictions”.

The submission asks the government to consider defining infringing goods in a way that “does not apply to content authorised by owners in other jurisdictions”.

Noting its prior calls for “all restrictions on parallel importing to be lifted”, the ACCC's submission concedes that as it stands, the proposed bill seems to have “appropriate safeguards” against abuse.

These include consumer law provisions that “prevent businesses engaging in false, misleading or deceptive conduct, provisions preventing harassment and coercion”.

Its attitude to the safeguards that now exist, it seems to Vulture South, suggest that the ACCC is concerned not that the bill will pass as it stands, but that content industry's wish to ban VPNs will find a sympathetic ear among government. ®

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