• A Lannister always pays his debts, but not all Australians do. Australian Game of Thrones fans have once again taken the international crown for illegal downloads. (AAP)
If you want to 'discourage' piracy and illegal downloads, you need to lower your prices, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has told content owners.
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31 Jul 2014 - 10:00 AM  UPDATED 31 Jul 2014 - 9:00 PM

If you want to 'discourage' internet piracy and illegal downloads, you need to lower your prices, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has told content owners, in the wake of the federal government’s plans to crack down on internet piracy.

Speaking to ABC Radio, Mr Turnbull said internet piracy has become a "big issue" and a "massive problem" for the creative industries. But he isn't blaming consumers entirely. Mr Turnbull said content owners also need to take responsibility by lowering the prices of their products if they wanted to "discourage piracy".

"There is an obligation on the content owners, if their concerns are to be taken seriously and they are by government, and if governments are to take action to help them prevent piracy, then they've got to play their part which is to make their content available universally and affordably."

For example, a quick search on the iTunes store shows that the movies Noah, Lego Movie, and The Other Woman cost $19.99 each in the US, while in Australia they cost $24.99. 

"If you want to discourage piracy, the best thing you can do... is to make your content available globally, universally and affordably," he said. "Content owners... have got to justify why they are charging more to Australians. They've got to make their case too."

A range of new rules and penalties will force consumers to pay up before downloading files. Australia has one of the highest rates of online piracy in the world, proving costly to the nation's multibillion-dollar creative industry.

"It's become a massive problem for the content creators of Australia and right around the world. It is really undermining a very important industry globally and it is simply theft," Mr Turnbull said. 

"The fundamental problem we've got is internet piracy is a big issue. I am a passionate defender of the internet and freedom on the internet, but freedom on the internet doesn't mean freedom to steal. It doesn't mean freedom to steal."

 

On Wednesday, the government unveiled proposals aimed at stopping piracy. They include forcing internet service providers (ISP) to block overseas sites known to offer illegal access to content.

This would enable rights holders to apply for a court order commanding the ISP to ban certain sites.

There is also a move to change the Copyright Act so ISPs would be liable for allowing access to illegal content. The law change would consider what, if any, "reasonable steps" were taken by the provider to prevent piracy.

By way of penalty, internet users who download illegal content could receive warning notices and face access limitations if the behaviour continues.

While calling for public submissions on its proposals, the government said a range of factors was required to eliminate piracy, including law-abiding consumers and reasonably priced content.

Attorney-General George Brandis said any changes would take into account consumer interests.

"The government's preference is to create a legal framework that will facilitate industry co-operation to develop flexible and effective measures to combat online piracy," he said.

"The ease with which copyrighted content can be digitised and distributed online means there is no easy solution to preventing online copyright infringement," said Mr Brandism in a joint statement with Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull. 

"International experience has shown that a range of measures are necessary to reduce piracy and ensure that we can continue to take full advantage of the legitimate opportunities to create, provide and enjoy content in a digital environment."

Australians were among the viewers who illegally downloaded the season-four finale of Game of Thrones a record 1.5 million times within 12 hours of the show being aired.

Industry groups welcomed the government's proposed reforms. Village Roadshow co-chairman Graham Burke warns that Australia is on the precipice of losing valuable businesses if there is no change.

Game of Thrones distributor Foxtel said piracy had far-reaching impacts, and the pay TV provider had already moved to deter illegal downloads by providing content to Australian viewers as soon as possible following screenings overseas.

The Communications Alliance, which represents several leading ISPs, urged caution on some of the proposals. It said entities including schools, universities and libraries offering legitimate services could be caught in the revised act, leading to disadvantages for consumers.

The alliance called for the establishment of an industry scheme as the best way to address piracy.