23 March 2015
Consumer advocacy group CHOICE says a proposed industry run ‘education’ notice scheme lays the groundwork for a fake fine racket, which is already playing out in the United States.
“Tony Soprano would be proud of Hollywood’s handiwork with the industry-drafted scheme plotting a path to dodgy fines that could leave consumers tens-of-thousands of dollars out of pocket,” says CHOICE Campaigns Manager Erin Turner.
“We know in the United States that rights holders for the film ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ have been sending letters demanding amounts of $3500 to $14,000 for alleged unlawful downloads, despite not having had their claims determined in court. We don’t want the same standover tactics used down under.”
The proposed code comes in the wake of ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ owners Voltage Pictures’ appearance in Sydney's Federal Court last month as they sought to force Australian internet providers to hand over details of customers alleged to have illicitly shared the movie online.
“The heavy handed industry code is just a way for Hollywood heavyweights to intimidate consumers without having to prove they’ve broken any law. We shouldn’t let these companies, who have a history of sending threatening legal letters, get their hands on private contact details without basic consumer protections,” says Ms Turner.
CHOICE’s submission points to Section 3.12 of the industry-drafted scheme, which will provide rights holders with a method for gaining access to consumers’ personal details, intended to allow them to pursue legal action against alleged pirates.
“While industry might argue the scheme is intended to promote court action, there are no protections for consumers to prevent rights holders with access to individuals’ personal details using them for a more sinister reason.”
“Industry wrote this code, and it’s alarming to see that rather than address the issues that lead to piracy, like pricing and availability of content, it instead provides an easy method for exploiting internet users,” says Ms Turner.
Among other consumer protections, CHOICE says any company who engages in so-called ‘speculative invoicing’ should lose access to the scheme.
"If Hollywood companies are serious about preventing piracy, they need to make sure the code is balanced and doesn’t facilitate or tacitly encourage bullying and unfair tactics like speculative invoicing.”