Recently, the highest court in Australia unanimously dismissed AFACT’s appeal that ISP iiNet was accountable for the bittorrent file-sharing occurring on its network. It was the final skirmish in the entertainment industry’s three-year fight to try and change the role of the ISP in its fight against piracy.
Now, as the dust settles and the lawyers from both sides start designing mansions to invest their newfound wealth, it’s the perfect time for AFACT to give up the litigation route and start looking at how it can offer a better service; A service that will entice people to spend their money buying entertainment instead of downloading it from dodgy sources.
Throughout the three-year battle, iiNet repeatedly - and publicly - tried to work with the entertainment industry to provide superior legal means of watching movies and TV shows.
A quick look at the current online entertainment system shows that the general public is generally locked in to one of two services - iTunes or BigPond - when it comes to watching movies and TV shows via the Internet. While there are other third party services available (like Fetch TV or TiVo), neither offers the versatility to watch on different devices.
Things get worse when you start looking for HD television content - the basic rule is that there is none. While Game of Thrones fans are torrenting an HD version from the US within hours of the show airing, those wanting to buy the show legitimately have to suffer with a slightly delayed SD version, only available through Apple’s iTunes. Ironically, Australia is one of the only countries in the world that even offers the HBO show for digital download.
The launch of Quickflix late last year is a positive step for the industry, although it has a long way to go before it reaches a Netflix level of consumption in Australia. That’s largely because it is restricted to which devices can actually access the service outside a PC.
What’s needed now is a unified approach to invest in these fledgling entertainment services like Quickflix and Fetch TV, allowing them to offer more and more content to the consumer in HD via digital distribution. AFACT is perfectly placed to drive the growth of these services, which would undoubtedly result in a drop in piracy and a boost in revenue.
Of course, AFACT is unlikely to move away from its current strategy. While legal proceedings against ISPs failed, the group has already stated that it intends to lobby the government to make changes to the Copyright law, potentially making future court cases more successful.
It’s a sad, cynical approach, which will almost certainly fail. Here’s hoping that AFACT can take its High Court loss as an opportunity to face facts about its fight against piracy.