Dual campaigns to fight online piracy worldwide and to withstand any weakening of copyright protection in Australia are stepping up.

Village Roadshow and Foxtel have joined a newly-formed global coalition of 30 content creators and on-demand entertainment companies dedicated to reducing online piracy.

The Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) will draw on the worldwide anti-piracy resources of the Motion Picture Association of America, in concert with the efforts of coalition members.

ACE’s membership includes the Hollywood majors, Amazon, Netflix, BBC Worldwide, HBO, Hulu, Lionsgate, CBS, Canal+ Group, Constantin Film, Millennium Media, Sky, Star India, Studio Babelsberg, STX Entertainment and Telemundo.

Its mandate is to conduct research; work closely with law enforcement to curtail illegal pirate enterprises; file civil litigation; forge cooperative relationships with national content protection organisations; and pursue voluntary agreements with responsible parties across the internet.

Village Roadshow co-chairman/co-CEO Graham Burke said, “Nothing is more important or urgent for our industry than confronting the global challenge of piracy. Every day that passes, tens of thousands of our movies are being stolen and it is devastating. 

“Through a concerted joint effort, we will protect creativity by impeding the operations of these illegal enterprises and by supporting the legal marketplace for content so consumers can safely enjoy the content of their choice.” 

The coalition points out there are now more than 480 online services worldwide which enable consumers to watch films and television programs legally on demand. 

However last year there were an estimated 5.4 billion downloads of pirated wide release films and primetime television and VOD shows using peer-to-peer protocols worldwide. In addition there were an estimated 21.4 billion visits to streaming piracy sites on desktops and mobile devices.

Meanwhile, 50 of Australia’s leading screenwriters and playwrights have issued an open letter calling on the federal government and parliament to reject proposals to weaken copyright protection.

They say the Productivity Commission’s recommendations would harm the ability of Australian writers to tell Australian stories and make a living.

Signatories to the open letter include David Williamson, Andrew Bovell, Tony Briggs, Jacquelin Perske, Andrew Knight, Leah Purcell, John Collee, Robert Connolly and Vicki Madden.

The PC report on intellectual property arrangements proposed Australia adopt the US-style ‘fair use regime,’ which would allow large enterprises to use copyright material either for free or at significantly reduced rates. 

PwC has estimated that the introduction of such a system in Australia would result in the loss of GDP of about $1 billion, with less money flowing to Australian production companies and artists. 

The report also recommended repealing parallel import restrictions on books, making commercial transactions involving IP rights subject to competition law and expediting copyright enforcement in the courts.

Screen Producers Australia branded the report as an insult to Australia’s creative communities while the commercial free-to-air networks and Foxtel argued the proposals would undermine the ability of Australian broadcasters and other creatives to invest in local content.

The writers’ letter states, “The changes to Australian copyright laws being pushed by the Productivity Commission, large organisations and big technology companies will threaten our jobs, the jobs of future writers, and the livelihood of our industry.

“Australian kids should be able to grow up inspired and entertained by our stories and our culture. However, these changes are a threat to the creation of Australian movies, TV shows and plays and mean it may be even harder to make a living for the next generation of writers, playwrights and screenwriters. 

“At a time when jurisdictions around the world are reviewing the impact of major technology companies on cultural production, we call on the Australian government and parliament to protect Australian stories and rule out the Productivity’s Commissions proposed changes.”