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ATTORNEY-GENERAL MINISTER FOR THE ARTS 24 February 2014 TRANSCRIPT - Interview with Leon Byner, 5AA Subjects: Copyright E&OE LEON BYNER: I’m talking with the Attorney-General and Arts Minister, George Brandis. George, thanks for your time today. ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Pleasure, Leon. LEON BYNER: Why do you want to get up on the discussion board across Australia this problem of internet piracy? Because there are those out there who genuinely think that it’s ok for them to download music that, from a copyright point of view, is actually theirs, or movies. We’ve got a situation for example where some organisations are advertising films being shown that aren’t even released on DVD or aren’t even out in the market. ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well Leon, the reason I’m raising the issue is because it is an increasingly important issue for Australia, particularly for the entertainment sector. The fact is that people don’t have a right to download pirate copies of songs or movies or television programs because the people who make those programs or other items have a right of property in them. The way artists earn their living is through royalties and that’s the way they are remunerated for what they do. To pirate a video or a song without paying the fee for it through iTunes, and so on, is an act of theft, it’s pure and simple. And the fact that it’s very common, I know it’s a very common practice particularly, I must say, among teenagers, doesn’t make it right. LEON BYNER: Now there are a lot of people, including Choice, and we’ll talk to them on the show shortly, but they are saying that this is internet censorship, that it’s not practical. As Arts Minister, you would be lobbied I’m sure, by producers, by directors, by artists, about this matter incessantly. Would you not? ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, I am because it’s a matter of really great concern to them because these people are having part of their income taken away from them. They are entitled
to their royalties just as a shopkeeper is entitled to the sale price of a commodity to be sold over the counter. So an artist is entitled to the royalty on the creative works that they perform. LEON BYNER: So Senator, what are we really doing? Are we saying that the ISPs, the internet service providers, ought to be responsible if their clients are downloading this stuff? ATTORNEY-GENERAL: The ISPs, in my view, do need to take some responsibility for this because they provide the facility which enables this to happen. I’m not suggesting for a moment that they’re complicit in it. Now, some of the ISPs have been very, very good and have worked with government and with other arts industry sectors on a collaborative basis to try and develop solutions to the problem. I know that David Frodie of Telstra, for example, has been a very constructive and helpful participant in this discussion. But what I want in the first instance is to get all the relevant stakeholders around the table. There were talks during the period of the Labor Government in trying to address this problem. They seemed to go nowhere. So I do want to restart this process with the ISPs and the rights holders and content providers and government. LEON BYNER: What would be the legislative situation that you’d be looking at if the discussions go the way in which the people in the arts community particularly would like? ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well let’s not talk about legislative solutions first Leon, because if we can have a voluntary industry based code of practice that is always the best way to go. And I haven’t, even though the former Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus, failed to achieve this, I haven’t given up on the possibility of developing a voluntary industry based code of practice. That will require the cooperation of the ISPs. But there is always the capacity, if that fails, for government to legislate. We had a report, that you’d probably be aware of, two weeks ago from the Australian Law Reform Commission about the Copyright Act which is almost 50 years old now. The Government will, during this term, be looking to make significant amendments to bring the Copyright Act up to date. I would prefer that those amendments not include a mandatory scheme but if a voluntary scheme can’t be developed then they will. LEON BYNER: Senator, thank you very much for your time. ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Thank you very much Leon, a pleasure. [Ends]