Friday, November 27th, 2020

Free data on Sunday and digital pirates

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Much has been written over the last week about Telstra’s network outage for about three hours on Tuesday, which caused great consternation amongst its customer base. Some even took the opportunity to lambast the network, which has been for so long branded as Australia’s best and most reliable mobile network, especially in light of previous failings of its competitors, e.g. #vodafail.

In this article however, this author is not going to tackle the subject of mobile network failings because at the end of the day the networks are reliable and we forget that there was a time where we could not check Twitter from anywhere, so we will survive.

No this article is going to focus on the piracy battle that continues to rage in Australia.

You may ask how is Telstra’s mobile network failure and piracy connected? The answer is that Telstra’s response to its outage has been to offer its customers free data on Sunday, an open smorgasbord. This gesture by Australia’s largest mobile network is likely to see pirates downloading heavily on Sunday – a view which seemed to be confirmed in an article in Saturday’s The Weekend Australian.

The article on Telstra’s offer sought views from the public as to how they are planning to make the most of the free data. A user who preferred not to be named told The Weekend Australian that they would “use a VPN to torrent as many movies as possible.” At this point it is prudent to note that The Weekend Australian also had a quote from a user who said they would go the legal route and watch Netflix all day.

Of course, there is no blame assignable to Telstra here as it can’t control it users but what it does illustrate is that piracy remains a large thorn in the side of both content creators and Internet providers. As such, the pressure being applied to pirates to try and stop them from pirating needs to continue from all angles.

Many, including this author, saw 2015 as a watershed year for the fight against digital piracy, with the arrival of multiple streaming services, headlined by the Kleenex of streaming services Netflix. This coupled with the Dallas Buyers Club case, website blocking laws and the planned introduction of a copyright notice scheme, created great momentum to drive people away from piracy. That is why it is so disappointing to hear that there are still some who will pirate at every opportunity. 

Telstra customers will enjoy a day of free data on Sunday but they shouldn’t be using the opportunity of unlimited downloads to engage in piracy and thereby depriving content creators of income from work that has cost those creators, in some cases, millions of dollars to make. At the end of the day, content is so widely available (legally) now at a reasonable cost. There is no longer an excuse to pirate (not that there was ever an excuse). 

Telstra should release figures next week of how its users consume data on Sunday. If they can be released one would hope they would show the majority of traffic accessing content through legal means.

One must remember that piracy is tantamount to stealing and must be stopped.

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