The Australian Government Supports Geo-Blocking That Could Drive Up Video Games Prices

The Australian Government Supports Geo-Blocking That Could Drive Up  Video Games Prices

Leaked details of secret trade negotiations between 12 countries, including Australia and New Zealand, have revealed that the Australian government has backed the US in its attempt to enforce stricter geo-blocking and other anti-piracy measures in a series of amendments that could result in Australians paying more for certain products.

Video games, more specifically our ability to circumvent region coding, would most likely be affected by these potential changes.

The leaked document, obtained by Wikileaks, contains the negotiating positions of all 12 countries involved in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement, including Australia; an agreement that many Intellectual property experts have criticised as anti-consumer.

In the document Australia is listed among those in support of restricting the sale of devices that enable Australians to circumvent geo-blocking. According to experts, the agreement has the potential to be ‘problematic’.

“It’s pretty restrictive,” said Kimberlee Weatherall, an Associate Professor at the University of Sydney, specialising in Intellectual Property.

“The US and to some extent Australia are pushing for more restrictions against the circumvention of devices and software — that would include video games.”

One end result for consumers would most likely be the continuation of increased prices for gamers locally here in Australia, and another looks like an increase in liability for companies like YouTube and iiNet, who could be held responsible for the piracy of its users.

“That’s potentially problematic,” said Weatherall.

Considering the previous position of the Australian Federal Government, and the work of the IT pricing inquiry, Australia’s position in these negotiations is extremely strange.

Two recommendations in the IT Pricing Report specifically mentioned ‘banning’ geo-blocking as a last resort.

Recommendation 9: The Committee recommends that the Australian Government consider enacting a ban on geo-blocking as an option of last resort, should persistent market failure exist in spite of the changes to the Competition and Consumer Act and the Copyright Act recommended in this report.

Recommendation 10: That the Australian Government investigate the feasibility of amending the Competition and Consumer Act so that contracts or terms of service which seek to enforce geo-blocking are considered void.

Very strange indeed.

“The fact that Australia is supporting this suggests that some people are not paying attention to the IT Pricing inquiry,” suggested Kim Weatherall.

But the good news is some countries are attempting to push back on some of the specifics of this agreement. Australian is not among them, which is strange considering how shabbily consumers have been treated by multinational companies with regards to geo-blocking and price gouging.

Very disappointing considering the progress seen with the IT Pricing inquiry.


    • HAHAHAHAHA. Absolutely true.

      There are bound to be users blaming Abbott when before the Coalition, Labor was doing the same via Steven Conroy and his Internet filter!

      • People are still banging on about the filter? Conroy’s a fool, but Labor backed away from that policy years ago. The Libs on the other hand…

        • We all know that. But there are some that for some reason see articles like this and think its the newest thing.

          • As someone who’s on the document text of the AUS/US FTA. I can speak with some authority that the Liberal Party is worse at this than the Labor party and has been passing these laws for a lot longer. Back in the early 2000s the Liberals were pushing this under Howard. The Labor party paid lip service but never actually passed stronger restrictions. The Liberal party is definately worse on this issue. The only good major party on this issue however is the Greens.

          • But on the other side the Greens are left wing that operate under the guise of environmental carers. Greens really want a carbon tax and to be honest Australians probably pay to much tax to begin with. To show i’m not biased the GST is still possibly the worst thing ever. In regards to the article both sides of Government need to tread carefully as the Gov endorsed ACB (Australian Censorship Board) has made gamers pissed off in the past and this will be the icing on the metaphorical cake.

    • Too true. If you want to go on an anti-Abbott tirade, there are plenty of other things you could say.
      None of this is particularly surprising. Companies have treated consumers with contempt for decades, now they’ve convinced a dozen governments to get together and enforce their anti-consumer agenda.

    • That is true, but they can still be held accountable for running with it, rather than abolishing it and working to give us fairer pricing on things.

    • Wow, so what you are saying is our trade minister and the rest of the elected governments policy has no input in the largest trade agreement going around and can’t be held culpable for selling consumers down the river? And yes, very astute in observing the trade meetings agenda was set before the negotiations.

    • But there were aspects of the TPP that Labor said they would not sign up to but Abbott seems to be willing to agree to and sign up to all aspects even if it means the common people will be worse off. Not to mention the internet filter which Labor did propose but then backed off due to public pressure. I have barely seen anything in the mainstream media about the TPP beyond “Tony Abbott is currently negotiating a free trade agreement” which makes it sound all nice yet no details of how devastating this will be to the common people are ever said.

  • Government really is an inefficient bunch of bureaucrats who work independently from each other aren’t they? One group saying geoblocking should be illegal, another group wanting to enforce it. What’s the bet the one that keeps uncle sam the happiest will be the winning option?

    Ah well, enforce geoblocking properly and I might lose Netflix and Hulu, but if I can’t pay for what I want, I’ll just go back to torrents.

    • This. If they have a problem with me paying for my TV subscriptions, then I guess I may as well just download everything for free. I mean, it’s not like they appreciate my business, right?

    • … until the 3 strikes rules get you and your entire household disconnected from the internet. Which your ISP will have to police because they’ll lose their safe harbour. Not that an internet connection will do you much good, since you’ll be too busy fighting the criminal charges for non-commercial piracy.

      ^ Not hyperbole. All stuff that’s in the treaty.

  • “Very disappointing considering the progress seen with the IT Pricing inquiry.”
    Does this prove that there has been little to no progress from the IT Pricing Inquiry?

  • Very disappointing considering the progress seen with the IT Pricing inquiry.

    What progress? The only thing I got out of that whole tirade was that we were letting these big software companies get away with their regional pricing strategies. They brought them in, questioned them, then sent them on their way, and we’ve heard nothing since.

    • So much this.

      “Oh hey, why are you guys such dicks and charge us way too much?”
      “‘Cause we get away with it.”
      “Oh, cool. Well, later!”

      They talked about getting around geo-blocking and all that crap but nothing came of it. It was such a farce; like R18+. A bandaid solution to get the most vocal people to shut the hell up.

    • Oz Gameshop price has been terrible lately. It used to be real good deals but recently I can even get it cheaper at JB. Look at Watch dogs. Oz Gameshop 69.99 and Jbhifi 69.00.

      • I picked up Rocksmith 2014 (with cable included) at JB’s for $79. Ozgameshop are asking $84. I’m baffled as to how i saved $5 at a brick and mortar store that actually has to pay exorbitant Westfield rents.

      • I’m guessing it’s the conversion rates. It’s more expensive buying things from amazon uk than it was at the start of the year.

    • I’ve noticed target in my area has been good with games pokemon y on day one was $49 and red pokemon y/x 3DS $229 and most recently bf4 and CoD fish $69

  • And they wonder why Australians pirate so much ? Find some pollies who actually understand the issuse & we’ll get some headway .

  • Joy. Never understood why our ‘leaders’ need to be such sycophants to US economic interests. It seems like our leaders idea of having a good relationship with the US is to ‘lie back and think of England’, as it were, and just take it. They’ll only exacerbate their ‘piracy’ problem if they choose suck up to the US and push for this policy. So much for our governments (both current and previous), governing in our interests. Twats.

  • So the government wants to bring in anti-piracy measures, which will raise the price of our software, which will only encourage further piracy.

    I’m going to take a wild guess here and say that they have no idea what they’re doing.

  • The minute this country tries to stop me legally purchasing goods from overseas and importing them is the same minute I find employment and housing somewhere else. I’m getting really sick of the USA enforcing their draconian Copyright and Region Locking laws on everyone else and our spineless politicians agreeing to it without question.

    Ultimately the only reason this stuff happens is due to corporate greed. Someone tell me what genuine benefit something like region locking has to the consumer. Or explain to me how having a Copyright term that lasts for 70 years after the original author dies is beneficial to society. And if the argument is “Oh well, it’s providing for their family in the future,” I say, TOO BAD. If they haven’t made any money of their own in that time, that’s their problem.

    • there is a reason that the last copyright extension act in the US was derisively called the Mickey Mouse Copyright extension act.

    • Copyright was originally 14 years in the US but only if you applied for it. This was to allow progress for others to build on the ideas of the copyrighted product and to allow the original owner to make a return on the investment. If only they listened to Thomas Jefferson, a strong advocate of reducing the time of copyright, we may not be in this mess we are in now.

    • Mexico’s negotiating position is lifetime plus 100 years. A CENTURY AFTER DEATH. This treaty is completely insane.

  • It’s typical of a government (any government), geo-blocking allows localised prices (usually higher), higher prices attract more tax revenue (GST, stamp duties and/or levies) which in turn means more income for the government. Governments love income because they can use it bribe their useful idiot voter base while the rest of us bend over and get f***ed up the a**e.

    Governments are only ever ‘consumer-centric’ if it wins votes (which it doesn’t since the savvy consumer is usually too clever to pay much mind to the government of the day) or if they can screw a few more dollars out of us.

  • I’m a geo-block dodger…..if they make it too hard for me to get the stuff I want at the same price other people pay then I might just start pirating things, which is a shame cause I really believe that media companies and artist deserve some money for there products.

  • This report is so disappointing. Would love to see more Media Enthusiasts / Gamer politicians who are aware of these issues and actually look out for us.

    The I.T enquiry felt like finally someone in Canberra got it – that we are getting shafted in all forms of media and software purely based on our geographical location. If the US companies want people to stop pirating, then offer a better service than the pirates and give us a fair price, released at the same time.

    Bully boy tactics and higher markups are only going to push people to develop more sophisticated ways of pirating.

  • I refuse to pay more for the same product (digital), purely because of where I live.
    For games, this will mean I wont play them… which isn’t much of a loss as the companies that implement regional pricing typically make generic boring games.

    For software I need, I’ll pirate if I can’t find a competitor’s product for a reasonable price.

    I hope the government will stand up to these companies, and make this anti-consumer practice illegal (which is highly unlikely as we now have a conservative government).

    • The government is doing the opposite. They’re all pissy because we refuse to pay ridiculous prices because of the “past market” and hence don’t collect tax on the goods. So they’re supporting geo-blocking, forcing australians to buy locally, which gives the suppliers a better position because of less competition, and they crank up the price. Monopolising.

  • Can this not be taken up with ACCC? Is this not the definition of price fixing.
    noun: price-fixing
    1.a practice whereby rival companies(countries) come to an illicit agreement not to sell goods or services below a certain price.

    Surely there could be a class action lawsuit against the government body for imposing what would be seen as an unlawful use or fair trade and on free market conditions?

    • Governments make sure that they position themselves in such a way that they are largely exempt from their own laws though especially when it comes to manipulating markets for their own personal gain.

      Also you can’t usually sue the government, you can get patsies sent to prison for corruption (usually only the ones stupid enough to get caught) and you can vote them out (only to vote in the same bunch of crooks but with slightly different stripes) but that’s really about it.

      Oh and the ACCC gets paid by the government, you’d have to be really stupid to think that they’d ever bite the hand that feeds them.

      Ain’t democracy grand? 🙂 It’s easier to simply bypass whatever restrictions they try to put in place since governments are very slow to react to loopholes.

    • This just in: Rupert Murdoch has been linked to blowing up the Hindenberg, sinking the Titanic and the release of Microsoft Windows ME.

      Fallacies are fallacies and constantly saying ‘Uncle Murdoch’ is not going to change the fact that Australian’s decided the election.

      The other problem I have with this constant claims of ‘Uncle Murdoch’, it belittles the majority of Australians and implies them as lemmings that follow just the one news paper.

      Australian’s decided made their decision back as far as 2010 (which everyone knows Labor had less votes than the Coalition and only won because they teamed up with the Greens).

      On a further note, the document provided by Wiki-Leaks is dated August 30, 2013. Who was still in power then?

      Is there even a mention of the ruling government in this document? For all we know both (Labor and the Coalition) are in mutual agreement over this document.

      • > Labor had less votes than the Coalition and only won because they teamed up with the Greens).

        (From 2010): “The Australian Electoral Commission says after preferences Labor has 50.12 per cent of the vote compared to the Coalition’s 49.88 per cent. Labor has a lead of 30,490 votes.”

        In other words, more people wanted Labor in than wanted the LNP. Many of those people voted for the Greens because, you know, preferential voting.

        In 2013 the same number was 53.45% in favour of the LNP (provisionally). In other words if four percent of the population had voted the other way we would have KRudd as PM.

        As you say, fallacies…

        Just as Murdoch DID influence the election, indirectly, by heavily favouring one side in his publications. People may try to make rational decisions, but that depends on having all evidence available and balanced. The Murdoch publications made no effort to present the policied & evidence in such a manner. (Fairfax seemed to lean slightly the other way.)

        Whether Labor COULD have won with News Limited taking a balanced tack is another question. Personally I would guess not.

        • (From 2010): “The Australian Electoral Commission says after preferences Labor has 50.12 per cent of the vote compared to the Coalition’s 49.88 per cent. Labor has a lead of 30,490 votes.”

          This I am going to have to admit I was wrong and chalk it up to a faulty memory. I remembered the number of seats remaining at 72 (the tie) but I cannot find the release showing the 48-52 split that later emerged in the Coalitions favor before the pact with the Greens was made.

          Just as Murdoch DID influence the election, indirectly, by heavily favouring one side in his publications. People may try to make rational decisions, but that depends on having all evidence available and balanced. The Murdoch publications made no effort to present the policied & evidence in such a manner. (Fairfax seemed to lean slightly the other way.)

          Even before the advent of the Internet, Australian’s were able to conduct their own research. Find their own sources and come to their own conclusions.

          In terms of influence, you either have or you have not. There is no indirect. Like it or not, Murdoch’s editors via the papers were voicing what most Australian’s were saying. If anything, Murdoch’s editors were slow: what was shown at the front of the papers were opinions the majority of Australian’s held for months in advance.

          When the Coalition won, the Social Media Sphere exploded in a tidal wave of denial and thus the hunt for a scape goat commenced.

          The reason why Murdoch was singled? Because of his share of the news papers and what Rudd (incorrectly) said about Murdoch owning 70% of news papers.

          If she had gone ahead with a takeover bid of Fairfax Media, the blame might have shifted to Rineheart.

          Whether Labor COULD have won with News Limited taking a balanced tack is another question. Personally I would guess not.

          Your guess is right. The Coalition, in fact, never won the last election. They simply didn’t lose it.

          Labor’s campaign simply focused on the slogan “If he wins, you lose”. No provision of policy. Nothing substantial. Just fear mongering and Kevin’s own disrespect to the Australian public.

          All Kevin Rudd provided were promises he could not deliver on unless he recalled the Parliment back.

  • This policy is more about stopping Modding of Xbox and PS systems under the guise of geo-blocking. It is currently legal due to loopholes and they are trying to shut it.

    As gamers , none on here should be complaining about the banning of Mod Chips unless you are straight out thieves.

  • Ahem… I had to google Geo-Blocking to find out what it meant… now that I do know, I’m bloody outraged!

  • hmmm so if government secretly sign this, the whole point of the IT pricing inquiry was a massive waste of time and money.

    • No, the pricing enquiry was a demonstration to our corporate masters that our politicians will be suitably obedient even when they have run an expensive enquiry to demonstrate that we are being screwed over.

  • Interesting notion, but I have the internet and access to all it contains. I am happy to abuse the privilege if they make me.

  • The fact that this government is a self-inflicted plague on Australia is irrelevant to this particular issue – Labor was charging ahead with this disgusting treaty as well.

    • Cambell Newman put it best. 2 things occur when you are elected, 1) you put on weight and 2) you lose touch with the people.

  • The one thing you can count on government doing, screwing up anything they touch because they think they know what’s best.

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