Village Roadshow CEO Graham Burke's Latest Piracy Letter To The Government Is A Bizarre Trainwreck

On March 15, Village Roadshow's CEO, Graham Burke, penned a letter to the Department of Communications and the Arts, appealing for a review of the Copyright Online Infringement Amendment.

What that letter contains is an eye-opening range of claims - of Australia ending up "as bleak as a remote Bejing suburb", linking piracy with "drug selling" and "luring kids" into "criminal neighbourhoods that proliferate with prostitution" and insisting "wondrous Australian films are often more important than people we meet in shaping our world".

I couldn't make this up if I tried.

Read it in its glorious entirety here.

In June 2015 the Australian Parliament legislated to allow pirate websites to be blocked in Australia. This important law was passed with the bipartisan support of the Coalition and the Labor Party. It was introduced into Parliament by Malcolm Turnbull and brought Australian copyright protection law into line with many other countries. It has proved a vital weapon in our fight against piracy.

Village Roadshow, as Australia’s most committed producer of feature films, has used the new law multiple times – and will continue use site blocking as a key tool in its anti-piracy measures. Site blocking is effective - recently released Australian research proves this. Piracy year-on-year overall is down 25% and traffic to blocked pirate sites down 53%. However, we have no doubt this can be down 50% and 90% respectively. Like any legal action, it costs money, but its value far exceeds its cost.

Village Roadshow strongly supported the original site blocking legislation and now we strongly support strengthening it.

With all major pirate sites blocked in Australia, the front door of the department store is shut. However, pirates, facilitated by Google and other search engines, are circumventing Australian Laws and Courts and opening a huge back door. By way of example, I attach page shots of Google searches, in most cases coming up with pirate links before a user even completes typing a search phrase.

Australia needs the power to require Google and other search engines to take reasonable steps to stop facilitating searches which lead to pirate sites. Proof this can work can be seen in Korea where the search engine equivalent of Google with a 70% market share on their own volition demote pirates to page 4 – Siberia. Why? As Koreans they have the interests of their own country at heart. Google’s tens of millions searching for stolen goods are attracted to their advertising business model. No interest in Australian jobs, culture or the economy.

Pirates are not charitable and are seriously bad people (suspected links to organised crime).

They make their money on:

a) Commissions on scams. Stealing people’s credit card details – holding their computers to ransom et cetera.

b) Rogue advertising including illegal gambling, drugs, sex aids and prostitution.

The analogy for Google is a Westfield Shopping Centre knowing they are getting big traffic to the centre from a store that is using stolen goods to lure people and then robbing them! Of course Frank Lowy would not wait for a court order and shut down real fast. As the Koreans do and so should Google!

Australia can achieve real reform by two simple amendments to the legislation:

1. Change the word “Carriage” so the provision extends to all “intermediary” service providers, to make it technologically neutral, covering search engines, social media and other types of internet intermediaries. Apart from ISP’s, many intermediaries are able to meaningfully impact traffic to infringing sites, and in fact, can and are currently used by pirates to find new locations and proxies to circumvent the ISP blocks. Importantly addresses auto complete as requires service provider to take reasonable steps to disable access to online locations.

2. Omit requirement that the Online Locations are “Outside Australia” as it is just a matter of “when” pirates open up and industry is faced with suing – three years – Men of Straw.

Of course, as our submission to the original legislation in 2015 emphasised, dealing with piracy cannot be just left to legislation.

Critical to the success of solving piracy is that legislation is accompanied by:

a) Legally available cheap product – Australian digital download is now as cheap as anywhere in the world. Services like Netflix, Stan and others have opened and subscription prices are not expensive. Village accepts and understands that people want to get product at the same time as the rest of the world. Three years ago this was not the case but today 99% of films are released simultaneous with either the American or UK openings. The small exception is a film like LEGO where it is released in holidays when audiences want to see it.

b) Hearts and minds – We must win over the hearts and minds. Our use of site blocking has been accompanied by a series of TV, on-line, newspaper and cinema ads reinforcing that piracy is theft and wrong. Just like people no longer smoke in restaurants and we have “tidy towns”, there is no doubt we can win hearts and minds.

i) The Bryan Brown commercial was to educate people to the real risks of pirating. This was factual and powerful and in Bryan’s Aussie way connected with audiences.

ii) Our new commercial appeals to the Aussie spirit of doing the right thing. It captures the exuberance and positivity of making films that employ tradies, musicians, writers and creative talent.

Both of these campaigns have been supported widely by Channels Nine, Seven, Ten, Foxtel and every cinema screen in the country.

In two years the public perspective has changed and 74% support our position that piracy is theft, and 52% agree more regulation is needed to prevent piracy and only 20% disagree.

The Australian film industry is critical to what we are as Australians. My generation grew up with GALLIPOLI, BREAKER MORANT, MURIEL’S WEDDING and the current crew with RED DOG, HAPPY FEET, HEARTBREAK RIDGE and LION. Wondrous Australian films are often more important than people we meet in shaping our world.

With a population of only 25 million if piracy is not more strongly addressed there will be no Australian film industry with the loss of jobs, taxation and the very real and bleak prospects of being a remote Los Angeles or Beijing suburb.

With the minor modification we recommend to the law, we can improve the effectiveness of site blocking and continue to make progress on dealing with the scourge of piracy which continues to threaten the livelihood of thousands of Australians engaged in creative endeavours seeking to continue to tell great Australian stories through the medium of film.

Finally, there is great urgency.

a) Already viability of local film production is in jeopardy as illustrated by the beautiful Australian film LION that has been illegally downloaded 331,000 times and based on research likely streamed 600,000 times. This represents a direct loss of revenue to the production company and the tax office. This in turn projects to the financial community that is making the raising of investment for film production more difficult.

b) Easy access facilitated by Google means kids are crossing to the dark side and getting lured into bad habits and taken to criminal neighbourhoods that proliferate with prostitution, pornography, drug selling and illegal gambling.

As Steve Jobs famously said:

“From the earliest days at Apple, I realised that we thrived when we created intellectual property. If people copied or stole our software we’d be out of business. If it weren’t protected there’d be no incentive for us to make new software or product designs. If protection of intellectual property begins to dissipate creative companies will disappear or never get started. But there’s a simpler reason. It’s wrong to steal. It hurts other people. And it hurts your own character."

Australia can win. The only losers are pirates and Google both of whom pay no tax yet cause shocking damage to our jobs, economy and way of life.

Yours sincerely

Graham W Burke, AO

Co-Executive Chairman

Co-Chief Executive Officer


Comments

    Good God, that's approaching Trumpian levels of ignorant word-porridge.

      “I’ll build the great Korean Firewall around Australia and make he people pay for it”

    This is funny until everyone in power believes this crap.

    Our new commercial appeals to the Aussie spirit of doing the right thing.

    Translated to copping it on the chin when big business decides to rip you off.

      That was my thought - there's nothing so obviously ignorant self-serving garbage that politicians won't buy into it when convenient.

    Entirely too much waffle and what I coarsely call "wanking off brand ego". I suspect it was written without consulting any kind of copywriter or communications professional. If I received this as a first draft I could probably cut the length in half, get the points clear, and make sure that the visual aids are properly referenced (if not contained within) the body copy.

      I suspect it was written without consulting any kind of copywriter or communications professional.

      Especially since he doesn't seem to understand what 'direct' means.

      the beautiful Australian film LION that has been illegally downloaded 331,000 times and based on research likely streamed 600,000 times. This represents a direct loss of revenue to the production company and the tax office.

      No mate, it doesn't. You would think someone who speaks so much about the subject would end up actually knowing something about it.

    Even disregarding all his other nonsense (TIL I'm linked to organised crime, only make money through scams and don't pay any taxes), where the hell are all these statistics from?
    74% support our position that piracy is theft, and 52% agree more regulation is needed to prevent piracy and only 20% disagree.

      Burke is either making them up or being very selective with his sources and is doing his own calculations to suit his false narrative.

      I think the real reason he hates Google is people are leaning that piracy is not theft.

      Might also be that Google makes it easy to see his past actions.

    Piracy year on year is down
    Remember back when we said that people pirate because of lack of affordable, convenient and timely access through legitimate channels? Since then, Netflix launched at an affordable price, FTA channels started offering paid and free VoD services, and mobile data caps increased significantly.

    But no, none of that contributed at all - it was the expensive DNS-level blocking legislation that can be bypassed with a 15 second change to your network settings. Sure.

      also probably gone down because anybody who pirates just turned on a vpn or proxy service

      but hey stats! numbers!

      He even admits that in his letter!
      "Legally available cheap product – Australian digital download is now as cheap as anywhere in the world"

      So he is basically destroying his own argument.

    "Australia needs the power to require Google and other search engines to take reasonable steps to stop facilitating searches"

    Yes I'm sure Google really cares about what some film company in Australia wants - and how exactly is Australia going to "require" Google to do anything?

    Geese someone hates Google. I bet he uses Google to search up his favourite porn sites.

      Well we do know he searches for Pirate Bay alot if his auto complete has learnt to autofill that from only three letters.

    The worst part is that you know the Nationals will eat this shit up and Turnbull lacks the spine to set them straight.

      Worth noting the original had bipartisan support too.

    Graham Burke yet again demonstrating to the world how much of a mongoloid he truly is. How can a man be so out of touch with reality?

      I liked how last year he went on a rant that VRS profits were down due to piracy... but its a smokescreen to blame Australians for their losses in the Amusement parks since 2017

    [Downs a very stiff drink]

    OK, let’s see if I get though this with a cool head for change.

    I'm even making this the last stab as this whole situation is just getting no where and I feel it a general waste of my time just thinking about it now.

    Village Roadshow, as Australia’s most committed producer of feature films, has used the new law multiple times – and will continue use site blocking as a key tool in its anti-piracy measures.

    If Village-Roadshow is so committed, then why are films that are even made here (in some rare cases, with government funding) are released whole months later than other countries?

    If we really are getting inline with other nations in terms of law, how about we also be inline with release schedules?

    As the expression goes, one cannot have one’s cake and eat it too.

    Site blocking is effective - recently released Australian research proves this. Piracy year-on-year overall is down 25% and traffic to blocked pirate sites down 53%.

    If it is effective, then why are there so many articles that show how easy it is to circumvent?

    And is the research really showing a decline in piracy itself, or a decline in the ability in detecting piracy?

    The academic in me is betting on the latter thanks to the huge rise in VPN usage even before the measures were put in place.

    However, pirates, facilitated by Google and other search engines, are circumventing Australian Laws and Courts and opening a huge back door.

    That is not even remotely correct.

    By Googling how to get around the DNS block (and even using a VPN), one is circumventing the measures put in place.

    If one is caught in the act of copyright infringement, the law applies.

    If we go down the path of making Google accountable then the same can be sad to various shops in general.

    By association, if a store sells an knife and that same knife is used in a violent attach then by Burke's own reasoning the store is just as liable as the attacker.

    Closer to Burke still, if a movie shown with violent content and a viewer then commits a violent act, again by Burke's own reasoning, isn't Burke's also responsible?

    Commissions on scams. Stealing people’s credit card details – holding their computers to ransom et cetera.

    No evidence has emerged of this. In fact, people have been caught in the net by going to legitimate sites thanks to the use of drive-by downloads and other methods.

    I seriously doubt all those who were caught in the WannaCry attacks a while ago were trying to pirate a movie.

    Legally available cheap product – Australian digital download is now as cheap as anywhere in the world.

    If that is the case, then why are some services still attracting an Australian tax? One or two instances, mainly Netflix and Stan, do not summarise the market as a whole.

    The small exception is a film like LEGO where it is released in holidays when audiences want to see it.

    I doubt that is true. At all.

    When the next Lego movie was due to be released, it was found to still be about two months after other countries.

    People made it known back with the first movie. They wanted to see it at the same time as the US. Burke even said Village would do so.

    Even if this is a small exception, it doesn’t excuse the behaviour of other films such as the second John Wick film which I think came out some time after the US release.

    I even think by the time the second John Wick film came out here, the BluRay was already out in the US.

    Our use of site blocking has been accompanied by a series of TV, on-line, newspaper and cinema ads reinforcing that piracy is theft and wrong.

    There is no denying that piracy is wrong.

    But as repeatedly pointed out, it is not theft. In fact, Australian’s know this and actually feel insulted that this false narrative is continued.

    Even if the false narrative is removed, there is still the frustration of the content’s existence. Putting that same content on DVDs, etc., and making them unskippable further annoys consumers.

    Why should they see the add after paying for the media when those who pirate do not and even get to the content faster?

    There is no further education need. Everyone knows this and a basic Google search quickly enlightens a user on what is legal and what isn’t.

    The only people who learn are the minority like Burke who still think that duplication somehow moves the original.

    Our new commercial appeals to the Aussie spirit of doing the right thing.

    Doesn’t that commitment go both ways?

    If Australian’s do the right thing and don’t pirate, shouldn’t Village-Roadshow and others do the same and give a fair release schedule and even fair pricing?

    As I pointed out at the start of this post, one cannot have one's cake and eat it too.

    For those still wondering that that old wive's analogy is about, it means to have action without consequent. To have a cake and eat it too means no matter how much is consumed the cake is always there.

    Burke basically wants people to do the right thing but has no intention of doing the same on his end for this "important" industry.

    The Australian film industry is critical to what we are as Australians

    Again, if Australian films are so important, why are their release schedules and availability sub-par?

    Over and over again, Burke is making a claim that the film industry is in harms way yet he and others is outright profiting from it while making no change what so ever.

    It this industry is so important, shouldn't Burke at least try to get his own out of harms way?

    It’s almost as if this “important” industry is redundant outside of turn-over. Which is possible by selling various licenses to films long after those who made them have been paid and moved on.

    if piracy is not more strongly addressed there will be no Australian film industry with the loss of jobs, taxation

    Again, proper release schedules and better pricing.

    Also, keeping your own theatre chain sanitary would be a very welcome addition.

    We the public have done our part. What do you, Burke, intend to do now that it’s your turn?

    As Steve Jobs famously said

    Steve Jobs also said the following:

    Good artists copy, great artists steal

    He was also one who had a meeting with various record labels about releasing content and told they they had their collective heads up their backsides.

    The only losers are pirates and Google both of whom pay no tax yet cause shocking damage to our jobs, economy and way of life.

    Doesn’t Burke’s own actions of not keeping to a fair release schedule have the same effect?

    Anyhow, I’m usually more hyperbolic and comedic when I’m roasting people like Burke.

    But in all honestly, I’ve gotten tired of this. It’s not funny anymore. There is nothing left to take the mickey out of anymore.

    As repeatedly asked here, if the industry is so important then why is Burke doing what he’s doing. If it is so important, when why does he allow actions to continue that put off consumers and drive them to piracy or even just buying online and doing out the local distributor?

    Burke really shouldn’t say the movie industry is important has he actions clearly how it’s redundant. At least to him.

    Even if (for the sake of discussion) piracy was nullified, there are still problems on Burke’s end that need attention. And I feel it is his own inner damage that is the larger threat than the pirates.

      Wish I could upvote this more than once.

      Also wish we could force Graham Burke to read this comment.

      Exceedingly well put. And yes, Graham, without your capitalist machine continually squeezing as much profit from the general public as possible, our film industry will surely die from a thousand cuts #sarcasm

    I'd love to know what amount of their (big media companies) annual spend is allocated to anti-piracy (lobbying, ads, DRM, lawyers, the whole thing). Then it'd be really interesting to compare that with what likely piracy losses (not their pseudo dream-world version) actually are.

    It'd be interesting to see what would happen if the millions that are poured into anti-piracy crap was poured into other areas, like better marketing, or distribution or just plain reducing the cost of the media to consumers.

      Indeed. Haemorrhaging “profits” do not equate to literal financial loss.

        Yeah exactly. Case in point (and I'm risking admitting guilt here), I downloaded Pacific Rim. But it wasn't a lost sale, why? Because I'd actually bought it on Blu-ray and at some point the disc got damaged, but I no longer had the receipt. So if I wanted to watch the movie I had to either buy it a second time or pirate it. To top that off, I actually ended up buying a new copy on UHD once I finally got a 4K TV and 4K Player. So, that's at least one download that does not equal a lost sale.

        I'm sure there are plenty of other examples, like people wanting to see John Wick 2 when it was released, not 3 months down the track. Or people who've ordered a copy from Amazon (or similar) and pirate a copy to watch while they wait for the real version to arrive in the mail. And of course the people who just flat out wouldn't buy a copy even if there was zero piracy simply because they're too broke or too much of a tight arse.

          Or people that pirate it, then rewatch it on Netflix for the subtitles (screenwriter). Or people that buy CD’s, realise they no longer own anything that plays them (???) and downloads the tracks. Or simply those who lend out any and all media to their mates... something I’ve actively encouraged since the cassette/VHS days.

          Seriously, how much fucking money do these companies need?

        “Oh no! We only made a profit of $1.3 billion last financial year instead of the $1.5 billion we did the year before. It must be those evil pirates!”

    "In two years the public perspective has changed and 74% support our position that piracy is theft, and 52% agree more regulation is needed to prevent piracy and only 20% disagree."

    [citation needed]

    2. Omit requirement that the Online Locations are “Outside Australia” as it is just a matter of “when” pirates open up and industry is faced with suing – three years – Men of Straw.
    Isn't the whole reason the site blocking legislation excludes Australian sites that there are already better options for such sites available? If the site is hosted in Australia and the owners are breaking the law, then you can have the site taken down completely rather than just blocking access to Australian customers.

    Or is he instead after a way to get such sites taken down without actually filing a lawsuit or getting them prosecuted?

      Probably the latter, since it'll be cheaper and easier than actually doing real work.

    I have to stream a lot of anime through "grey" streaming sites, even though I pay for Crunchyroll. Why is this? It's because regional licensing restrictions make series that are available in the US unavailable in Australia for no reason. Konusuba? Overlord 2? Nope. Can't get them legally because Geoblocking is a dick. Guess what I'm going to watch them anyway.

      Exactly. Would dearly love to stream entire seasons of Ghost Adventures... but if it’s available on a platform in this country, I haven’t seen it.

      (Actually, I think both of those are on AnimeLab - a welcome addition to my streaming subscriptions.)

    Sigh.

    I pirate. Sorry. I’m a creative with a low paying job. I have subscriptions to several streaming services, and will always go there first, but have continued downloading shows and films I don’t have “reasonable” access to (sorry, Foxtel).

    I understand his position. Profit is ESSENTIAL in a capitalist economy... but so is eating, shelter and warmth in my tiny, 99% bubble. Much like many others.

    I understand his position, and don’t necessarily disagree... but coming from him? And one of the largest companies in the industry? You can fuck right off, mate.

    Mewling quim.

    Yep let's legislate and enforce outdated business models to support dying industries in order to maintain the oligopoly of the few. Well done australia. More coal anyone?

    Hmm let's see
    GALLIPOLI, BREAKER MORANT, MURIEL’S WEDDING, RED DOG, HAPPY FEET, HEARTBREAK RIDGE and LION...

    Nobody is torrenting this shit!!!

    Burke by name, also nature. Probably the origin of "village idiot" too.

    today 99% of films are released simultaneous with either the American or UK openings. The small exception is a film like LEGO where it is released in holidays when audiences want to see it.

    I'm pretty sure audiences want to see it as soon as possible. I don't remember any of my friends saying "Man, I sure am glad we have to wait three months to be able to watch this movie like everyone else in the world, despite it being made here!"

      The amount of times I’ve been able to get HD Webrips or even Bluray rips of movies before they hit Australian cinemas would make Burke’s head spin

    Australia needs the power to require Google and other search engines to take reasonable steps to stop facilitating searches which lead to pirate sites. Proof this can work can be seen in Korea where the search engine equivalent of Google with a 70% market share on their own volition demote pirates to page 4 – Siberia. Why? As Koreans they have the interests of their own country at heart.
    Does anyone else notice that this guy loves to quote what Korea does with their internet? He mentions many times that Korea doesn’t seem to have a piracy problem because they control what information can be seen on their internet.

    Korea doesn’t have the people in mind with they way their internet is seen and run, it’s to maintain control and the illusion of the Government is seen by the population. Korea doesn’t have free and inflicted internet. Korea has a censored and over controlled fire walled internet that never allows the people to see freedom and truth.

    This guy wants Korean style internet in Australia... what a sick f***

    Well at least we have a 100% perfect example of someone writing a letter while being completely coked outta their mind. Drugs are bad, kids.

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