Australia Tax: No Choice But To Pirate?
The leaking of the Australian Federal Government’s “Online Copyright Infringement Discussion Paper, July 2014” has firmly put the copyright cat amongst the pirating pigeons.
It has also set off a new round of outcry over why some people pirate and why tech and digital media prices are so high compared to those charged in the US.
The discussion paper was leaked to Crikey as a 10 page document (PDF download) makes for interesting reading on how our politicians are looking at solving the copyright infringement conundrum.
Consumer advocates Choice have come out swinging, saying that not only is the ‘Australia Tax’ still alive and thriving a year after the release of a report entitled “At what cost? IT pricing and the Australia tax”, but that the Federal Government’s copyright discussion paper “sidesteps the Australia tax issue and fails to deal with the real causes of piracy”.
One striking example of the “Australia Tax” is that Australians pay more than US customers for “identical digital products”, such as Adelaide-born Sia’s new album, which last month reached the top spot in the US charts, costs 82pc more in the Australian iTunes store than in the US iTunes store.
Hip hop sensation Iggy Azalea, also an Australian to reach the No.1 US chart spot, sees her album costing 45pc for Australians, while Australian actor Hugh Jackman’s movies, such as The Wolverine, cost Australians 42pc more to watch than US fans.
Choice Magazine’s Campaigns Manager, Erin Turner said: “If the Government is serious about addressing piracy, it needs to address the fundamental issues: that Australians often find it hard to gain access to content like movies and television, and when they do, they pay far too much compared to consumers in other countries.
“This issue was comprehensively examined by the IT Pricing Inquiry, which released its report – At what cost? IT pricing and the Australia tax – one year ago.”
“Australians commonly pay around 50% more for software and other digital products like games and music. The IT Pricing Inquiry provided a bipartisan blueprint for reforms to address this price discrimination.”
“If the leaks are correct, the Government’s leaked anti-piracy discussion paper has missed the opportunity to deal with this problem – in fact, the paper explicitly says the Government does not want to receive comment on Australia tax issues.”
Of particular concern to Choice is that the discussion paper clearly states that “rights holders can ensure that content can be accessed easily and at a reasonable price by their customers”, yet offers “no policy solutions to address the Australia tax”, with the paper stating that it is “not seeking comment” on issues raised in previous the IT Pricing Inquiry.
Ms Turner added that: “The leaked paper appears to focus on expanding the liability of Internet Service Providers for copyright infringement, and introducing an anti-piracy internet filter.”
“These sorts of measures, when introduced overseas, have proven to be ineffective in reducing piracy, and costly for consumers.”
“We are not suggesting that better access and more competitive prices are silver bullets that will solve this issue entirely. However they are important factors which deserve real consideration – not just a tokenistic mention in a preamble,” Ms Turner concluded.
Choice has published a guide on how to get around “geo-blocking”, or the practise of overseas media companies to block Internet users from accessing content based on which country they’re visiting from.