The iiNet Case – A Senseless Battle In A Doomed Net Piracy War

So seven big Hollywood studios and the Seven Network are taking Federal Court action against internet service provider iiNet for allegedly failing to stop its clientele from pirating 68 movies. Jeez – only 68?

Ferfuxake! The notion that iiNet’s role as a service provider should include policing the web use of its clients is ridiculous…Then again, McDonalds was famously sued by a woman who spilt a cup of coffee on herself, successfully claiming that it was served excessively hot. It was Macca’s fault, decided the courts, that she chose to balance the full cup on her lap while driving after buying it at a drive-through.

Then there was the case of the drunk in WA who won his case against a pub for serving him when he was already pissed, thus causing the accident that ensued when he attempted to drive home.

Leaving the braying law aside for a moment, but not the topic of personal responsibility and abdication therefrom, we have Stephen Conroy saving us from our sins with his pending net nanny legislation. Righteously supported, naturally, by the Family First fucks and goddy two-shoes Rudd.

Bugger the advice from the web experts that mandatory ISP content filters will slow down our already lagging ADSL speeds…and will be simple to bypass for the technically savvy. And never mind the fact that content filter software is already widely available to those who wish to use it. I mean, individuals exercising personal choice about these things is encroaching on the Government’s right to take moral responsibility for the proles citizens of this good country, so onya Steve, Kev and FFFs.

Ahh, whatever! Issues of responsibility and morality are beside the point here, iiNet’s prosecutors would cry. We’re talkin’ business ethics, copyright infringement, BUCKS!

Fair enough. I’ve been at the pointy end of copyright infringement – thankfully, all sorted now (see The Geeks Story, I’m on the side of the artist. Ripping CDs is ripping off the artist by denying them royalties. However

…the web has changed distribution forever, swiping distribution control from corporations and retailers and placing it in the eager hands of the public. So prevalent is the downloading of music from the web, so simple and cheap the process of burning CDs, that ethical considerations – in fact, the very concept of copyright – have fallen by the wayside. It is not fair on the artist or the companies investing in them, but it’s technological evolution. Fairness is not part of the evolution equation, which comes down to a simple choice – adapt or perish.

The record companies had been in denial of their impending extinction, seeking to snuff out their foes, like Napster, in court. Then came the realisation that they were at war with a Hydra – the nine-headed dragon from Greek mythology that grows two heads whenever one is cut off. Regulation was the key. Compromise was the cost.

A few years down the track, we have the iTunes store and similar. The thinking that many punters would be prepared to pay a small fee to download their music from a central, well-organised and expansive site offering unprecedented flexibility of choice has paid off. Sure, plenty of music is still being ripped off illegally for free, and the reality is that this will continue. Better, though, to retain some of the pie than lose it all to the rabid masses.

Bitter medicine, no doubt, but it’s worked for the record companies. Moviemakers still see themselves as a protected species, apparently. Well, they ain’t, and maintaining this delusion is perilous indeed!

Visiting the sins of the clients on the ISP is about as rational as charging Smith and Wesson with murder. Take a lesson from your buddies in the music industry, boys. Give the punters a reason to pay for your movies – a well-promoted online store with massive choice of past and current movies, superior download speed and quality, and nominal fees – and there’ll be enough takers to reduce the haemorrhage to a leak. To expect any more in an internet environment is as dumb as it is greedy, since it is not profit that is at stake, but survival.

In the meantime, I suppose we can be grateful for the comedic value of watching the antics of a contemporary Methuselah. To wit:’s report that Twentieth Century Fox is hiring security guards to patrol the opening sessions of Australia, armed with night-vision goggles to detect pirates recording the movie off the big screen. Quoth Fox Australia managing director Marcos Oliveira: “We are sending security guards equipped with night-vision goggles for the first two days to the 100 most important cinemas in Australia.”

Erm, what about the 3rd and 4th days, and all those other less “important” cinemas, Marcos? Or will the word be out by then that the movie’s a dud, rendering piracy as futile as your strategy to prevent it?

Shiver me timbers, it’s a funny ferkn world.

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