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Knocking out piracy

3 mins  19.07.2017 John Fairbairn, Zeina Milicevic, Helen Lauder
Recent cases show media companies are working on ways to better protect their digital content and in the process, are reshaping Australian copyright infringement laws for the digital age.

Key takeouts


Media companies are finding themselves increasingly vulnerable to content theft. The digitisation of content and the speed with which it can be distributed, is helping copyright infringers circumvent traditional copyright laws.

The impact of the cases outlined here, are likely to filter throughout the wider media and business community, and will help to set the bar for digital standards nationally.

MinterEllison's work is helping to regulate digital content consumption and distribution, as well as shift public perception about illegal downloading and streaming.

The issue: Blurred lines

As more and more media and entertainment is consumed online, media companies are finding themselves increasingly vulnerable to content theft. While this type of theft – or piracy - has been around for decades, the digitisation of content and the speed with which it can be distributed, is helping copyright infringers circumvent traditional copyright laws. By copying subscription-based content, in particular, and re-distributing it to the public across unauthorised digital channels, content pirates are having a negative impact on the overall media marketplace.

We've been working on a series of cases about digital piracy since 2015 with a view to better defining the standards applied to content consumption across digital channels, including social media platforms that often go unpoliced.

The cases:

For leading content providers, the exclusivity of their content remains paramount. For example, when a blockbuster movie like Spiderman or popular TV show like Game of Thrones is pirated and re-distributed to a public audience free of charge, it undercuts the value of the content and the subscription offering.

In one particular 2017 case, Foxtel saw live TV footage of a boxing match between Anthony Mundine and Danny Green shared without permission by individuals to a substantial audience. The theft of the 'live stream' was a significant issue for Foxtel as it was one of the first contentious examples of unauthorised live streaming via social media in Australia, which has a negative impact on the funding of such events.

In an earlier case, the Federal Court found that Foxtel and Village Roadshow had established that pirate websites The Pirate Bay, TorrentHound, IsoHunt, Torrentz and SolarMovie infringed copyright, including in Foxtel's original productions of Wentworth, Open Slather, A Place to Call Home and Real Housewives of Melbourne. There was then a subsequent case in which owners of music copyright obtained similar findings in relation to various KickassTorrents sites. As a result, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are now required to block those pirate sites. If a web user attempts to access the site they’ll be redirected to a webpage hosted by either the media company or the ISP itself.

The outcome: Sharing the load

The impacts of cases such as these are likely to filter throughout the wider media industry and business community at-large, and help to set the bar for digital standards nationally.

Further still, these cases help to redefine the parameters of responsibility around protecting content. For example these cases have helped define the extent to which and the basis on which ISPs, who have the ability to block illegal activity, as in the aforementioned Foxtel case, co-operate in the fight against piracy. 

Conclusion: A clearer picture

These cases are about drawing up boundaries and developing cost effective procedures to help media organisations to stop their valuable content being compromised by digital piracy.

While this work is helping to regulate digital content consumption and distribution, it’s also helping to shift public perception about illegal downloading and streaming, an important component of the fight against media piracy long-term.

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