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Australia should Legalise Content Geododging

Monday, 02 May 2016

IA

Productivity Commission reveals draft copyright review.

The right of Australians to dodge content geoblocking should be enshrined in law, a sweeping draft review of Australia’s copyright regime by the Productivity Commission recommends.

The Commission today released the 550-page draft report on Australian copyright, which is highly critical of how much of the system presently operates. It is seeking public comment by June 3.

One of the Commission’s many targets is the geoblocking technology used by rights holders and streaming services to segment the internet.

“The use of geoblocking technology is widespread, and frequently results in Australian consumers being offered a lower level of digital service (such as a more limited music or TV streaming catalogue) at a higher price than in overseas markets,” the Commission said.

That “unsurprisingly” led many consumers to circumvent geoblocks using DNS or VPN technologies, the report said, adding that crackdowns on the technology and practice of geododging should not be allowed by law.

“As a minimum step, the Australian Government should prevent the future possibility that rights holders seek to use ambiguity in the Australian copyright system to prevent consumers’ circumvention of geoblocks,” the Commission recommended.

“The Australian Government should implement the recommendation made in the House of Representatives Committee report At What Cost? IT pricing and the Australia tax to amend the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) to make clear that it is not an infringement for consumers to circumvent geoblocking technology.

“The Australian Government should seek to avoid any international agreements that would prevent or ban consumers from circumventing geoblocking technology”.

Netflix is one of the most high-profile recent cases of a service cracking down on users that circumvented its geoblocks.

The streaming service grew strongly through international subscribers seeking access to its US service. However, it recently tried to stop this from occurring in what was seen as a token gesture to rights holders, whom it relies on to license content.

The Commission said that it regarded “more accessible content” as one of the “keys to reducing online copyright infringement, rather than increasing enforcement efforts or penalties.”

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