News Ltd chief executive Kim Williams has called on the government to strengthen legislation to stop rampant piracy.

Williams, speaking at the Australian International Movie Convention on the Gold Coast, called on the government to revamp the existing copyright framework to reflect the industry's shift from analogue to digital.

"What the Australian production and distribution industry needs are renovated legal underpinnings that acknowledge the primary right of copyright owners to exploit their work in the certain knowledge that theft will be prevented and punished equally," Williams said.

"Without that core commercial underpinning the outlook for our industry – the digital entertainment industry – is grim indeed. Whilst there is endless talk about the NBN there is yet to be any formal acknowledgement that the legislative and enforcement frameworks are disastrously outmoded and defective to sustain any relevance in confronting a modern high speed digital delivery world.

"Without immediate and wholesale makeover we are condemning our nation to relentless criminal rip-off and plunder of original IP on an unprecedented scale which will make the current 65 per cent rate of consumption being of stolen material look like a pathetically modest nun's picnic."

The former Foxtel boss, who has also held senior roles at the Australian Film Commission, the Film Finance Corporation and ABC, said the main perpetrators of piracy usually blamed others rather than taking responsibility for their own actions.

He also suggested that Internet Service Providers should take more responsibility, noting research by the Intellectual Intellectual Property Awareness Foundation (IPAF) found that 73 per cent of illegal downloaders said they would stop if their ISP threatened to slow down or halt downloading.

"To my mind this constitutes a powerful and effective deterrent that Australia should now be contemplating… any approach to digital copyright protection needs to capture all forms of piracy on the net and have effective mitigations and penalties."

Williams also listed his top 10 favourite films (below), noting that such quality content would be unlikely to be created in future without adequate anti-piracy regulations.

Kim Williams' top 10 films

1. Amarcord – Frederick Fellini – my all time favourite film. Intensely personal, loving of community and tinged with nostalgia and clarity about people and the cavalcade of human events that affect one's life rendered with a poignancy that is literally unforgettable.

2. The Godfather – Francis Ford Coppola – quite simply the modern American masterpiece that reinvented epic narrative drama with intense intimacy and grand spectacle whilst capturing a cultural resonance that was wholly original.

3. The Rules of the Game – Jean Renoir – for me a timeless humanist drama which captivates my memory still after 40 years.

4. Close to Eden – Nikita Mikhalkov – the power of the cinema to tell a unique affecting original story like no other medium.

5. Gallipoli – Peter Weir – history rendered exquisitely so that it lives for an audience with power and enduring meaning. It captures the horror of war with all the insight and poignancy of Wilfred Owen. And the stupidity of so many of the generals. And what a line-up of home-grown acting talent, too.

6. Mad Max 2 – George Miller – the best modern post apocalypse heroic Greek style drama which is a true Australian masterpiece. George Miller is an Australian artistic genius, no doubt about it.

7. An Angel at My Table – Jane Campion – is for me one of the great story telling creations of the nineties. I shall love it forever.

8. The Great Dictator – Charlie Chaplin – the grandest and most cutting film of all about Hitler and yet it is silent and a brilliant mix of slapstick and satire. Art in the service of democracy, giving the world a reason to fight the Second World War.

9. Jedda – Charles Chauvel – my lifelong Australian cinematic hero who reflects all the best aspects of cheerful Aussie persistence, optimism and true one of a kind originality.

10. Ten Canoes – by Rolf de Heer and Peter Djiggir – indigenous, inspired, funny, fascinating and wholly absorbing. Makes one proud to live here and be part of this country as do Bran Nue Dae and The Sapphires.

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3 Comments

  1. Charging Australians a fair price for legimate movie downloads and releasing them within a reasonable timeframe would be a better place for Kim to start if he’s serious about combating piracy.

    When Australians have the same access and pricing for music and movie downloads as those in the US he may just have a few less of us laughing at his comments.

    While sharing a movie or music file may infringe copyright it is not theft, as long as people like Kim Williams continue to describe file sharing as theft it’s hard to take them seriously.

  2. Williams pointed out that one of his favourite films was Charlie Chaplin’s ‘The Great Dictator’ and noted that such quality content would be unlikely to be created in future without adequate regulations.

    So we should note that the copyright rules at the time it was created are a worthy guideline for us … and that limited the life of copyright of such films to 56 years.

    Copyright is a great system – balancing incentives for creators against wider cultural concerns. But it is a balancing act – and continually increasing copyright terms isn’t helping the balance.

    Yes – any anti-piracy legislation needs ‘effective mitigations and penalties’ but it also needs effective protection for people who may be falsely accused. And it needs effective penalties for companies who make accusations that turn out to be false.

    The ‘Content ID’ system on Youtube is an interesting example. Since there is effectively zero penalty for the system falsely accusing someone of a violation we find typical users being branded as scummy copyright violators – even though they are the good guys.

    Even DMCA which does (theoretically) provide a penalty for false or reckless accusations has no real way of ensuring that those who slander others as ‘copyright violators’ are prevented from doing so without real evidence.

    It seems that we want to ensure that ‘pirate’ is considered a terrible label .. so terrible that the average person wouldn’t consider doing it.

    That means that we have to accept the flipside – accusing someone of copyright violation is such a heinous accusation that you would *never* do it without real evidence. Certainly accusing it and attempting to get their livehood (internet connection) cancelled without considering fair dealing should be unheard of.

    So what is the suggested solution? What framework provides appropriate penalties against accusers who turn out to have not studied the situation carefully first?

    Mac

  3. The same posturing bout “theft” and “punishment” that we have been hearing since Kazaa and music downloads.
    At least I did not see “cost of illegal downloads”. Maybe they are realising that this does not cost them anything, and they are just not making anything from people who probably would not have bought a copy of the film anyway.

    Radiohead and Louis C.K. have provided examples of how to combat piracy – give everyone with an internet connection an opportunity to purchase a licensed copy of the product at a price acceptable to market – the same price across the globe.

    Radiohead took any donation the consumer thought was fair.
    Louis C.K. has a trailer on YouTube and asks for USD$5.00 to download the whole programme from his website – no DRM and no regional restrictions. In 2 weeks he collected USD$1 million, and Louis stated “The first 250k is going to pay back what the special cost to produce and the website to build. The second 250k is going back to my staff and the people who work for me on the special and on my show. I’m giving them a big fat bonus. The third 280k is going to a few different charities … That leaves me with 220k for myself. Some of that will pay my rent and will care for my childen. The rest I will do terrible, horrible things with and none of that is any of your business.”

    Mr Williams, major production studios, distributors including iTunes …. please justify your retail pricing across different territories, royalty percentages and why is it the customer’s fault that you are not making as much income as you want?

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