By Belinda Palmada
Australia’s largest film producer, Village Roadshow will sue anyone who downloads or streams a movie from an illegal pirate site in November this year.
Prosecuting users has worked well in some European countries such as Germany which has a low rate of piracy.
“As Village Roadshow, we are planning to pursue our legal rights to protect our copyright by suing repeat infringers – not for a King’s ransom, but akin to the penalty for parking a car in a loading zone,” Graham Burke, Co-Executive Chairman and Co-Chief Executive Officer of Village Roadshow Limited, said in a speech at the Australian International Movie Convention.
“If the price of an act of thievery is set at say, $300, we believe most people will think twice.
“However, the more important role of the legal action is to be part of the process of educating people that piracy is indeed wrong and is theft.”
The movie company indicated it will not sue people who are elderly or who have done it by mistake or who are ill. They will target those who are frequent users of private content.
Australians have taken to piracy more than anywhere else in the world surpassing the USA. Australia accounted for 12.5 per cent of the torrents of the Season 6 premiere episode of Game of Thrones and was the world’s worst offender. The USA, with a population of 300 million came in at third with 8.5 per cent.
In August this year, the Federal Court of Australia made rulings to block access to 57 international websites that allow users to download pirated TV shows and movies.
Telco companies Telstra, Optus, Vocus and TPG, were ordered to take reasonable steps, to stop their customers accessing the websites, which include piratebay.to, watchfree.to, torrentproject.se, Yes Movies, Vumoo and Los Movies.
Illegal downloading is an issue that has been plaguing the entertainment industry resulting in a loss of revenue on content distribution.
A recent study found that $1.37 billion in revenue was lost to the Australian economy as a whole and 6,100 jobs were lost as a result of movie theft alone.
Though piracy has declined in recent years with streaming services such as Netflix, Presto and Stan making content legally available, one out of four people worldwide is not paying for their entertainment.
The primary reason for Australians of all ages pirating movies and TV shows is that it is free.
“People think it’s not physical, but it does matter,” Lori Fleker, Creative Content Australia Executive Director, said.
“They make excuses like I wouldn’t have paid for it anyway, but they had the benefit of watching it and the same as watching it is eating an apple so if you’ve already eaten the apple or watch the film, you’ve consumed its value.
“You haven’t paid for it; you reduce the value to zero.
“Licensees are less than likely to buy content for Australia because it’s going to service a small audience and work out how many people are watching it before they purchase.”
Ms Flekser said suing people would not save the entertainment industry, but it would help.
Potential fines will lessen the number of those who download and will undoubtedly bring back investors into the industry, she said.
Australia is one of the worst offending countries for online piracy, with 1.24 billion visits to illegal pirate sites.