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Piracy Crackdown: Industry Given 120 Days To Reach Consensus

Piracy Crackdown: Industry Given 120 Days To Reach ConsensusAttorney-General George Brandis and Minister for Communications Malcolm Turnbull have advised they have written to industry leaders, “requiring them to immediately develop an industry code”.

The code will be developed with a view to registration by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) under Part 6 of the Telecommunications Act 1997, and will include “a process to notify consumers when a copyright breach has occurred, and provide information on how they can gain access to legitimate content”.

“The Minister and the Attorney-General expect strong collaboration between rights holders, internet service providers (ISPs) and consumers on this issue,” a joint media release from Turnbull and Brandis states.

Failing agreement within the 120 days, the government will take matters into its own hands

The government stated it “will impose binding arrangements, either by an industry code prescribed by the Attorney-General under the Copyright Act 1968 or an industry standard prescribed by the ACMA, at the direction of the Minister for Communications under the Telecommunications Act”.

The government will also amend the Copyright Act, enabling rights holders to apply for a court order requiring ISPs to block access to a website, operated outside of Australia, providing access to infringing content.

Turnbull has fended off criticism this is effectively putting an internet filter in place.

“This is not, repeat, not an internet filter,” Fairfax Media reported Turnbull as stating when asked if it was in contradiction to the Coalition’s policy of not supporting an internet filter.

“There’s no internet filter here at all. What on earth are you talking about?”

Consumer group Choice has, however, contradicted this.

“In regards to the blocking scheme, it has the effect of filtering peoples’ internet access,” Fairfax reported Erin Turner, a spokeswoman for Choice, as stating. 

“We think that anything that filters the internet can reasonably be called an internet filter, even if it is industry run. While we understand they don’t want to refer to it in this way, if you regulate and restrict what people can see on the net, you’re running an internet filter – plain and simple.”

Meanwhile, John Stanton, CEO of telecommunications industry body the Communications Alliance, has stated they “support the balanced approach that the government has taken to what is a serious issue in Australia”.

“Australia’s ISPs do not condone or authorise internet piracy and our industry is willing to contribute strongly to fighting the problem, while ensuring that the rights of customers are fully respected,” Stanton commented.

Stanton further stated the success of any scheme “will depend, in part, on continuing efforts by rights holders to make affordable content available in a timely manner” to Australian consumers, adding this will remove “much of the consumer frustration that presently drives piracy”.

It is planned the new code, to be written by Communications Alliance, will be registered by ACMA, making its provisions mandatory for all Australian ISPs, the Communications Alliance stated in a media release.

“We will consult with consumer representatives and rights holders as we develop the code and the details of the notice scheme over coming months,” Stanton commented.

“The code will not include any sanctions to be imposed by ISPs on their customers – we believe that the copyright holders are the appropriate party to take any enforcement action against persistent infringers.  

“But we are optimistic that the sending of notices by ISPs to consumers whose service has apparently been used for improper file sharing will be a powerful signal. We hope that the notices, combined with education measures, will convince many ‘casual’ infringers to change their behaviour.”

Foxtel has welcomed the move by the government.

“Online piracy represents a huge threat to creative industries in Australia and around the globe,” Foxtel CEO Richard Freudenstein commented.

Freudenstein noted legislation will provide the tools to deal with operators of pirate sites and to also provide for the education of those who download illegitimate content.