Netflix, the NBN and Dallas Buyers Club – piracy’s perfect storm

Anthony Caruana
13 April, 2015
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Over the last week, three significant events have taken place could change the way we access movies and TV shows.

Before we dive into this, we’d like to make something clear. Illegally distributing movies, music, TV shows, software and other digital content is not something we condone. Content creators deserve to be paid for their labour. Ultimately, if the revenues that go to creators are diminished through piracy then the end result will inevitably be fewer people creating content and less quality viewing and listening.

Dallas Buyers Club

In summary, Dallas Buyers Club LLC is a company set up for the management of the movie Dallas Buyers Club. The company asked a number of ISPs to provide them with the details of almost 5000 users who they believed distributed copies of the movie illegally.

Following a court battle, judges ruled in favour of Dallas Buyers Club LLC, compelling the ISPs to give the information over. There’s still some further legal activity to go but the net result is a legal precedent for content distributors to take action against alleged software pirates has been set in Australia.

Netflix, Stan, Fetch and other streaming services

With the arrival of several streaming services, it’s now possible for us to access content over our Internet connections. That means we can now watch movies and TV shows when we want on almost any device we care to use.

Along with services such as iTunes and Google Play, we now have the means to legally download or stream content when, where and how we want.

In other words, one of the key excuses given by those who engage in downloading content illegally is falling apart.

However, content owners and distributors are still living in the 80s and operate as if the Internet doesn’t exist. They seem to think geographic boundaries should define when TVs shows and movies are made available. Unless you’re working for a movie or television distribution business you know this is a broken way of looking at things.

This is the key – piracy is no longer a direct function of cost and convenience. It used to be but we now have solutions in place that make convenient and inexpensive distribution a non-issue. With most streaming services costing around $10 per month, they are significantly less expensive than cable TV and offer greater variety than free to air services.

The NBN Debate

The rapid shift towards streaming media is already putting immense pressure on our Internet connections. Unless you’re already on a fast connection, it’s unlikely that a creaky ADSL connection will let you access these new services with any reliability.

In other words, we have an all-new, innovative business model that radically disrupts a dated service that no longer meets the needs of the market. But the essential infrastructure it depends on is not keeping up.

We’re not interested in a technical debate about what sort of network the country needs in order to access this and any other new and innovative services that might be around the corner. But the government’s seemingly reactive policy is stifling the market’s opportunity to take up a lower cost service that offers better outcomes for consumers.

What does Nirvana look like?

Firstly, let’s accept that there will always be some degree of piracy. No matter how many traffic cameras are installed or security guards are at the train station, there are always some people who speed or try to evade paying a fare.

For those cases, an effective legal framework for detection and prosecution is reasonable.

However, as former Victorian Police Commissioner Ken Lay recently said about the epidemic of drug use – you can’t arrest your way out of the problem. You need to deal with the reasons.

We now have the means to easily and cheaply deliver content to customers. But it needs content distributors to stop living in the past, imagining they can divide the world into distribution zones. If someone wants a copy of Taylor Swift’s latest music or the most recent episode of Game of Thrones then they will get it.

The Internet has no boundaries and there’s no point pretending you can create them.

We need a broadband network that enables the distribution of media to every home. I’m not a network engineer but I know enough to recognise the original Fibre to the Premises NBN proposal would have satisfied this need. It’s possible other technologies will also support this.

If this was done right, the Dallas Buyers Club LLC decision would drive a reasonable framework for detection and prosecution of people who illegally distribute content (note – I’m not saying downloading, just distribution). Content distributors would remove the incentives for piracy by making content available easily and at reasonable prices. And we would have a broadband network that supported this.

Is that too much to ask?


3 people were compelled to have their say. We encourage you to do the same..

  1. Kevin Cobley says:

    It only takes one guy to download GOT, you can use NVidia Shadow Play available in all GeForce driver packages to record the entire episode as a H265 video and then share via DVD burning or a memory stick. Makes three strikes and you’re out look a little stupid. Record the entire season on one Blue-ray instead of those ridiculous box sets, that don’t need to be in a Box set just on one disc please.

    The people running these media conglomerates are just plain incompetent.

    1) Release in a timely manner, and at the same time in all world markets.
    2) Don’t sell rights/release to program bundlers like Foxtel unless they are required too sell programming as a stand alone download with no advertising packaged.
    3) No need to release copies to press reviews, make them stand in line like everybody else.
    4) Enable the pre purchase of Blu-Ray or DVD sets (assemble the series on one Blu-Ray, and cut the intros/trailers on episodes 2-10 and run credits at the end of the series in lieu every episode. DVD’s will still require 2 discs). Pre purchasers allowed to have free download as episodes are released. Printed material accompanying discs could be downloaded by PDF. This will be a major saving of distribution and production cost. Nobody is interested in “features”.
    5) Sell the packages at reasonable cost, like US$40, AU$50.
    “Piracy” is a product of poor and greedy distribution policies.Media conglomerates could do much better than trying to force consumers into their failed outdated distribution models. Lower prices for packages would result in much higher revenues. High pricing just led to a “rental market” and now a “pirate market” when much lower pricing could have secured a “purchaser market”.

    The end game of telecommunications infrastructure is fibre to the home, so the cost is going to be eventually incurred in constructing it. It makes no sense to invest in fibre to the node when at some date in the near future it’s going to result in stranded assets(many thousands of costly node boxes).The Minister for Fraudband should have restructured the original NBN concept by 1)Requiring private property owners, including MDU’s to cable their own premises and install terminal boxes at their own cost or have ISP’s complete the work to contract customers..
    2)MDU’s to have an annual vote on cable install to replace basement nodes with no proxy votes, and some sort of NBN loan scheme to finance the install.3) A much simpler single Ethernet port terminal device, the current NBN termination is too pricey.4)Building a Wi-Fi network on telegraph poles to enable low internet users and phone customers to have service when copper removed, this would be shared infrastructure for all ISP’s.5)Building the NBN first in CBD’s and the denser/wealthier inner suburbs first before the outer and costlier suburbs/rural districts later to produce a faster cash flow earlier.

  2. Chris says:

    “1)Requiring private property owners, including MDU’s to cable their own premises and install terminal boxes at their own cost or have ISP’s complete the work to contract customers..”

    Well TPG want to do that now, problem is in the monopoly that will create by leveraging high wholesale costs for other ISP’s (in the case of FTTB). Also some Body Corporates are concerned about the idea of a sole carrier per building.

  3. Karl Williams says:

    I 100% agree. Back before streaming music services I said I would stop downloading music when I can just pay a monthly fee and listen to what I want. And I have done that. I have done that, where I can. I still want the content but it’s not available with one or even multiple providers so I still download that, but I listen to everything else on Pandora.

    I am a Stan user, I love it, I don’t download anything I can watch on Stan. But the issue I have is that none of the providers allow offline downloads. Their service doesn’t work when I’m on a plane, and I’m always in the air, it’s where I watch most of my TV.

    But I hear cries of using providers like iTunes, tried that, it’s way too expensive. They wanted $70 for a current season of NCIS, that’s nearly $3 an episode. Why should we have to pay an exorbanent price for content. TV networks would never pay that much and the effort on the studios is the same.

    Hopefully one day the studios will realise that we are over being extorted. Charge us a reasonable price and we can all play nice in the sandbox.

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