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Wednesday, 24 October 2018
Page: 10900

Mr HUSIC (Chifley) (11:24): In rising to speak on the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2018, I want to pick up on a point that the member for Boothby made—that the internet poses challenges in this area. Yes, it does, but the big challenge is the freeing-up of copyright to ensure that innovation can spread more widely and to face up to big rights holders and the types of hysterical arguments we get in this space. As lawmakers, just because we might get a selfie with Richard Roxburgh—I love Rake as much as anyone else—or a political party gets a donation from a rights holder, does not mean that we should stop looking at how to make the types of reforms that balance the needs of creatives and the needs of producers versus the needs of consumers.

No-one supports piracy. No-one should support piracy. Piracy is theft—I totally get that. We support this bill, but the problem is that the bloated, greedy, resistant-to-change rights holders will always refuse to reform in this space. Copyright reform is used as their way to shield themselves from the modern era, to shield themselves from new ways of doing things. The internet is not a challenge to rights holders; the mentality of rights holders to move with the times is the biggest challenge to rights holders in this country. Piracy is their go-to lever—'We're all about fighting pirates.' Apparently there are pirates all over the place who we have to be watching out for, who are ready to rip people off, who are demonising these hardworking rights holders. We get this argument all the time. These rights holders think that, by constantly using legal mechanisms through this place and elsewhere, piracy will disappear. The reality is that piracy is a reflection of a market failure. I do not excuse, condone or support piracy, but I do recognise that it is a reflection of market failure, where producers are making an offering that is not in line with consumer expectations and the access is not in line with consumer expectation.

What we are providing for with these types of bills, which the rights holders all champion, support and claim credit for, is a form of regulatory hallucinogen, where they think that, if they get this type of regulatory reform through, piracy will disappear. No, it won't. When rights holders get serious about the consumer offering and the way in which they're helping consumers access content in a much more affordable way, that will have a bigger impact. This isn't some sort of highfalutin, 'utopic' view about this.

Mr Hunt: Utopian.

Mr HUSIC: Thank you, Minister. If you look at times past where there was piracy enabled through file-sharing platforms, you had the rise of Steve Jobs, Apple and the iPod, then leading to the creation of iTunes, and their pricing structure for music basically made a consumer think deeply about whether or not they would take pirated content, with all the risks of malware and copyright breach, versus the simple process of buying a single for 99c through iTunes. So the proposition was changed. The rights holders even resisted Steve Jobs initially but then ceded way for him, because they figured that Apple's market share at that point in time was so small—why bother? But they also had pressure coming from a firm called Napster, which had opened up access to music in a way that had never been there before. When the member for Boothby talks about Spotify or someone else talks about iTunes, just know that the only reason those things existed was that Napster created the pressure on rights holders to reconsider their offering and the way that they did things. All the innovation that flowed through improving file transfer over communication networks happened because a bunch of teenagers on the other side of the Pacific thought differently about the way they would spread content.

But it would never have happened with rights holders, because they just want to maintain the existing arrangements to squeeze the maximum amount they can out of consumers. So in this debate I speak as someone who's standing up for consumers. I don't speak for this pro-producer legislation per se. I do support its ability to crack down on piracy, absolutely. But I think the voice of consumers needs to be heard more. And we'll have people who'll argue passionately for this but will also argue, at the same time, that we need trade liberalisation. I mean, the coalition argues for it all the time in this House. There are massive benefits, and I'm a supporter of trade liberalisation. My arguments are consistent. Opening systems up has delivered benefits to economies and communities. The old way of always dragging down on the regulatory lever to see certain things occur has short-term benefit but long-term loss. Trade liberalisation opened things up. So if you're in favour of trade liberalisation, you can't argue against the refusal to reform copyright in the way that we hear often being advanced.

The coalition bring forward this type of legislation because they don't have the guts to stand up to the rights holders. They will not stand up to the rights holders on key reforms in copyright like safe harbour reform—too hard for them. They will not argue for it because the big rights holders continually beat down on any move to open up in this space. Some of the arguments these rights holders use are incredible. Graham Burke, from Village Roadshow, likened Google to big tobacco. That's what Graham Burke said as a rights holder. It's embarrassing that that is the level of advocacy by rights holders. But this is what these people think.

This bill will allow what Graham Burke and all the others want, which is: 'If other countries in the world can curate what you find on a search engine, we should be able to do it too but for rights holders.' That's what they press for. This is the type of argument that's been put forward. And they want someone else to pick up the bill—be it a telco that has to respond to a court case where someone has launched, as a rights holder, this type of thing. They'll do that. The rights holders want their rights defended, they want other people in the economy and the business community to pay for it and they want consumers to have less choice. In the meantime, technology advances to such a point that it renders those business models obsolete.

As I said, no-one supports piracy, but I don't support regulatory hallucinogens like this—where they just think that, if they clamp down on piracy, their need to reform their business model goes away. Wrong. There are some big rights holders who fight modernity, who want to see everything on the internet have a dollar sign in front of it or for content to constantly sit behind a paywall—and then have that offering out of step with what consumers are prepared to pay for. Let me give an example. Most online media subscriptions will cost you anywhere from $25 to $30. You can go onto Spotify and get a subscription to all the music you want for 12 bucks a month—half of that. I have to pay 30 bucks for maybe 30 to 35 issues of news content through News Limited—it's 32, I don't want to mislead the House—versus what you get on other offerings. Now, there is a rightful case to be said about the way in which the model may be undermining the ability for us to have quality journalism. I totally get that, and it is a right And there are also people who argue against Spotify not providing the artists the income levels that they need. I think that is a fair argument too, and it needs to be had. but we don't shut down the platform because it threatens a rights holder's model.

I'll argue this case consistently, like I said a few moments ago. Trade liberalisation and opening up pathways are very important. We opened up the economy in the Hawke-Keating years. We had a lot of people, particularly those whom we represent here, who were impacted on by those reforms. We didn't say, 'We won't do it because it'll have a negative impact.' We look at the transition on the way through.

I don't argue this with any vested interest, either. Just like when my side of politics said, 'We're going to change negative gearing rules,' I didn't say, 'I've got an investment property and, therefore, I'm not in favour of negative gearing reform.' I never said that. I think it is important to reform negative gearing and it is important to open up the economy. I challenge rights holders and those in the creative community and say, 'Why is it that you're resistant to reform but everyone else in the economy has to go through it, changing the way that they work, providing for lower cost in the system, providing for a better form of remuneration down the track through changing the way systems operate?' Those are the things that should be looked at—not us being used, in this chamber, to advance commercial interests for people who refuse to move with the times, which is exactly what we get when it comes to copyright.

There is a failure of this place to be able to see genuine reform on safe harbours where new digital platforms are emerging in this country, created by businesspeople in this country, that provide a new way for artists and manufacturers alike to create a new income flow. We say, 'It's too hard to have the legal sword that hangs over their heads because they could be challenged by someone in any part of the world.' In the case of Redbubble, as I've previously told the House, they were challenged and taken to court by the Hells Angels because they thought their copyright had been breached by Redbubble, which was operating out of Melbourne and providing hundreds of jobs and huge economic opportunities for content generators—artists and the like. That's what exists. Redbubble was taken on by Sony because of apparent breaches to do with Pokemon. The legal case was upheld and Redbubble was charged the princely sum of $1 as a fine by the court because Redbubble had a whole series of mechanisms in place to be able to respond to concerns about copyright breach and to ensure that artists were looked after. We need to find a way in copyright reform to rightly protect artists and their income and livelihood but also to allow other innovative companies be able to generate, through innovative ideas, new ways of getting things done, to create commercial value in the growth of those firms—such as Redbubble, Bardot, 99designs and the like—and to have those firms and platforms thrive, survive and grow. That's what should happen.

Like I said, by all means, let's support this bill. But let's not support this sort of camouflaging of reality that exists where the rights holders don't do anything about their business model—they just ring the bell and get us to rush in here with another bill about piracy while they don't actually keep step with modern times. It's just inconceivable that we continue to allow this to occur. Again, if we clamp down on piracy in the way that we're doing, we need to see an equal effort by rights holders to demonstrate how they are offering new ways of getting thing done and providing accessible, affordable content to users. If they don't do it, other market providers in other parts of the world are going to do it and our people—Australian consumers—will find a way around it.

I imagine at some point we're going to have a debate in here about banning VPNs because they allow people to access content on other sides of the planet that aren't able to be accessed here. At what point do we see the rights holders make that argument? I wouldn't be surprised if we see it soon. If we got some rights holders saying, 'Google's as bad as big tobacco,' I don't hesitate to think that they'd come back with that proposition. Again, we've got to find a way to protect and enhance artists' income but also allow other innovation to occur in the Australian economy without always having this binary debate that says, 'Copyright reform is completely bad and can never be countenanced.' It's just not sustainable.