You wouldn’t steal a car… but a movie? Most of us seem fine with that.
As we look down the barrel of a copyright crackdown many might be unaware of the fact that it isn’t actually a crime to download movies and TV shows without permission or payment in Australia. It may not be ethical and downloaders might be sued for copyright infringement, but there are no laws that criminalise Australians downloading and watching content for their own individual use.
Downloading something like Game of Thrones without paying for it is a breach of copyright but if you’re not doing it on a commercial scale, it’s simply a civil issue and it’s the copyright owner’s problem if they want to come after you.
Village Roadshow chairman Richard Kirby stated “Plain and simple, it is theft. No one would go into a bookstore and walk out with books under their arm. The Australian government has indicated strong support for introducing legislation, which we anticipate will be in the next few months”. While few of us would celebrate depriving content creators of income, Mr Kirby’s classification of downloading does not square with the legal definition of theft. This requires permanently depriving the original owner of the item.
When you pirate something you make a copy of it against the wishes of the copyright owner, but they are still capable of making copies and selling them themselves, so it’s not theft!
So why is downloading so common in Australia?
The reasons Australians download content outside of approved channels vary. But the main reasons include the delay and additional costs Australians face in an increasingly global entertainment environment. Research released by consumer group CHOICE in September 2014 revealed Australians can pay up to 400 per cent more for some subscription television content: 261 per cent more on iTunes, 219 per cent more on Google Play, and 426 per cent more on Foxtel Play. Gauging the rate of pirated downloading is difficult but Foxtel estimates more than 500,000 Australians downloaded popular television show Game of Thrones outside of approved channels in season three. Foxtel has around 2.5 million subscribers. Last year the millions without it only had to avoid spoilers until the program could be downloaded in iTunes or QuickFlix a week later. Apparently, half a million decided not to wait.
More than 90,000 Australians torrented the final episode of Breaking Bad within 12 hours of its US screening for similar reasons. This year, those without Foxtel weren’t be able to see any episode of Game of Thrones on local streaming services until the whole season had finished.
So what’s a torrent?
Bittorrents (also known as “torrents”) work by downloading small bits of files from many different web sources at the same time. Torrent downloading is extremely easy to use, and outside of a few torrent search providers, torrents themselves are free of user fees. Torrents are very unpopular with the MPAA, the RIAA, and other copyright authorities, but are much beloved by millions of college and university students around the planet.
How do I start using bittorrent?
You will need to download Bittorrent Client Software. (there are dozens of choices, all free to install).
You will also require a tracker server (hundreds of them exist on the Web, no cost to use).
I’ve heard of people using a VPN – what is this?
A VPN is a virtual private network. VPN’s were initially used to connect securely to a remote network via the Internet. Most companies maintain VPNs so that employees can access files, applications, printers, and other resources on the office network without compromising security, but you can also set up your own VPN to safely access your secure home network while you’re on the road.
A VPN allows you to connect to the internet via a server run by a VPN provider. All data traveling between your computer, phone or tablet, and this “VPN server” is securely encrypted. As a result of this setup, VPNs:
- Provide privacy by hiding your internet activity from your ISP (and government).
- Allow you to evade censorship (by school, work, your ISP, or government).
- Allow you to “geo-spoof” your location in order to access services unfairly denied to you based on your geographical location (or when you are on holiday).
- Protect you against hackers when using a public WiFi hotspot.
- Allow you to P2P download in safety.
In order to use a VPN you must first sign up for a VPN service, which typically cost between $5 and $10 a month (with reductions for buying six months or a year at a time). A contract with a VPN service is required to use a VPN. Note: using a VPN service does not replace the need for an internet service provider (ISP). It is your ISP that provides your internet connection in the first place.
Is it legal to download movies from Youtube?
Is it illegal to download YouTube videos for personal use? Many people would answer that question by suggesting it’s something of a ‘grey’ area. Actually it’s pretty black and white.
Google owns YouTube and, as we all well know, Google pads out its rather fat wallet with money made through advertising. It provides free video content for you to enjoy at your leisure, and you return the favour in the form of a website ‘hit’. The more visitors it records, the more money it can charge to display advertisments. Download the video to watch it offline and, although Google recorded a hit the first time you came to the video, you’ll remove any money-making potential it has for your subsequent viewings. Naturally, then, Google doesn’t want you to side-step its advertising by downloading video content from YouTube. Neither do the creators of videos who also make money from the adverts. But taking steps to avoid video streaming-quality issues and overstepping your data-download limit are surely common sense, and avoiding advertising isn’t illegal. After all, in-browser ad blockers are legal – if a little unfair to the publisher when accessing free, ad-supported media – and no-one will pull you in front of a judge for leaving the room to make a cup of tea during a TV ad break. You can even skip the ads after a few seconds on most free catch-up TV sites, and more than likely fast-forward the ads on recorded programmes.
Is it illegal to upload movies & TV shows to Youtube?
Yes, it is illegal to upload a movie on YouTube unless you are the owner of the movie and hold all the rights of publishing. If it’s a popular movie or TV show from a leading production house ,you may get a copyright strike on your YouTube account . Three copyright strikes can lead to the deletion of your YouTube account.
So what happens if I get caught downloading?
The following steps are the typical process for “John Doe” defendants in an illegal download case:
- You get an internet connection.
- You or someone with access to your internet connection downloads a movie, video, or music using torrent software (like BitTorrent, µTorrent, Vuze or BitComet), a web browser, or other internet downloading software
- The company that owns the copyright to the illegally downloaded material (“copyright owner”) identifies your internet connection’s IP address either by (a) using torrent software to connect to your torrent software or (b) getting a list of IP addresses from the website you downloaded from by getting a court order for that website to release it’s IP log files.
- The copyright owner files a lawsuit in federal district court.
- The copyright owner gets a subpoena ordering your internet service provider (ISP) to provide your name and contact information based the IP logs. The IP logs connect the illegally downloaded material to an IP address, and your ISP can connect that IP address to you because it was assigned to your internet connection at the exact time of the illegal downloads.
- The copyright owner sends you a letter threatening legal action unless you pay a settlement amount (usually $2,500 to $4,500).
- You either (a) consult with an attorney, (b) ignore the threat and hope it goes away, (c) negotiate a lower settlement amount, or (d) pay the settlement amount demanded by the copyright owner.
- If you did not settle the claims, either you get sued or the copyright owner decides it is not worth suing you.
The following are a few practical tips to consider if you find yourself as a “John Doe” defendant in a lawsuit involving claims that you illegally downloaded a video, movie, or music:
- You can generally negotiate the settlement amount. You do not need to accept their first offer.
- Owners of copyrighted porn know that people are more likely to pay money to settle porn download lawsuits than other illegal download lawsuits simply to avoid the embarrassment of being listed in a federal lawsuit claiming you downloaded porn. This means downloading porn illegally is statistically more risky than downloading other copyrighted material.
- Fighting a subpoena that attempts to reveal your identity is a waste of money because you will reveal your identity by fighting it.
- The cost of fighting a case would far exceed the cost of every settlement I have negotiated.
There are a number of legal defenses to consider, including these:
- The court where the lawsuit is located may have no jurisdiction over you.
- You should not be liable for the copyright infringement of another simply because that person used your internet connection to download illegal material without your knowledge or consent.
- In torrent or BitTorrent cases, you cannot be liable for unauthorized copying (copyright infringement) when the copyright holder made the copyrighted material available to you with torrent software.
Hopefully it will not go this far. But if you still want to download movies and TV shows I would definitely invest in a VPN service. This will make it more difficult for your IP address to be traced.