Piracy is Theft Which Ever Way You Look at it
Creative content producers have sought to get a message across to Australians for decades that piracy is stealing. However, as the RMB Compensation team explains, the message does not appear to be getting through.
Hit TV show Games of Thrones is notorious for being targeted by internet pirates seeking free access to the show. Season 7 was illegally downloaded more than 1.03 billion times, and those numbers were expected to increase as the final season headed towards its recent finale.
Producers emphasise that piracy hurts their ability to create content which carries significant production costs.
Whilst each offence must be considered separately, generally downloading is not a “criminal” offence. The term ‘illegal downloading’ refers to the unlawful breach of copyright by accessing producers’ content without permission. As such, the copyright holders are left to privately enforce their rights through civil court proceedings against individuals who illegally download their content.
Not only would that type of action be extremely costly and time consuming (imagine having to individually sue the 1.03 billion people who downloaded Game of Thrones last year), but the copyright holders have had significant issues identifying those responsible because the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) hold the information of their customers and can see what they have accessed.
The copyright holder must seek the private information from the ISP, who have taken a hard stance against wilfully providing their customer’s information to copyright holders.
Landmark cases in Australia include the Dallas Buyers Club (an award-winning Hollywood movie), and its producers who sought to obtain from iiNet details about their customers who had illegally downloaded the movie. The producers intended to sue those individuals for breach of copyright.
After years of hearings and appeals in the Federal Court, Dallas Buyers Club was unsuccessful for a number of technical reasons, including significant unanswered questions about how the copyright holders intended to use the private information of individuals.
Whilst the case has left open certain issues, it is clear that there is a veil which shields internet users from copyright holders looking to enforce their rights.
However, new processes allow ISPs to identify illegal downloading and issue warnings to customers. If you are warned a number of times, your ISP may notify you that your information will be passed onto the copyright holders.
The government has placed obligations on search engines to limit access to illegal downloading sites but compliance is difficult and the breaches continue.