So everyone now knows that Underbelly has been banned from airing in Victoria, and banned from the Internet altogether. But the reasoning behind this and the ridiculousness of it all in the modern media age is what I want to mention here.
Basically, the judge’s thinking goes: We have a murder trial coming up, the series relates to the trial, therefore showing the series will pollute the jury pool, therefore the series can’t be shown until the trial is over. I think they’d ban it in the whole country if they could, but I doubt the Victorian Supreme Court has that power.
But why just the series? Underbelly is based on books that have been available for years. They’re still on sale. And there’s websites and news articles everywhere that are all still freely available.
And here’s the ridiculous part: this has all come about due to a trial where the defendants name is suppressed and the case is not mentioned. So we can’t even know who is stopping this, or how the case relates to Underbelly (reminder: I’m in NSW so this is only an academic interest in the ban — I’ll watch this with everyone else in Sydney tonight).
Except … we can. Five minutes of research on Google told me exactly who the suspect is, who was murdered, and exactly how the case relates to Underbelly and some of the characters in the series. I won’t say it explicitly here, but read this article from a very major Victorian newspaper, and you will know all.
That’s the stupid thing about these bans now. In the distant past, it would have worked, because newspapers were a day to day affair, old news went away, and people forgot. Now everything is there for us all the time, news old and new.
And of course, the last point is that Underbelly will now probably be the most BitTorrented Australian series of all time. Usually there isn’t much incentive to get local shows on BitTorrent. But for thousands of Victorians, they now have plenty of reasons. And archaic laws declare they could actually somehow be in contempt of court for doing so (let alone breaching copyright).
So when will the courts wake up and notice what century we live in?