Australian ISPs move to create anti-piracy Code

Australia’s Internet Service Provider (ISP) industry will create an industry Code for a notice scheme to combat online copyright infringement or ‘Internet piracy’, in line with decisions made December 10 by the Federal Cabinet.

“We support the balanced approach that the Government has taken to what is a serious issue in Australia,” said Communications Alliance CEO, John Stanton. “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.”

It is planned that the new Code, to be written by Communications Alliance, be registered by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), making its provisions mandatory for all Australian ISPs.

While details of the Code are yet to be finalised, Stanton noted that ISPs had already signalled support for a ‘notice-and-notice’ scheme that would alert customers to alleged infringements but also focus strongly on educating the public about the potential illegality of improper file-sharing on the internet and on how to access lawful content.

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

“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,” he said.

“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,” he advised.

“Of course 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 Australia consumers – thereby removing much of the consumer frustration that presently drives piracy.”

ISPs support the creation of a public education and consumer appeals office that would give consumers access to a simple appeals mechanism if they believe they have been incorrectly accused of wrongdoing

Stanton said that ISPs would examine cost models with rights holders, including ways to ensure that the expense of running a notice scheme can be minimised.

“Making inroads against Internet piracy in Australia will return to rights holders a proportion of the revenue that they are currently losing due to piracy. Thus it makes sense for the rights holders to reimburse the reasonable expenses that ISPs would incur in operating a scheme – just as police and security agencies pay for the services that service providers offer them to assist law enforcement,” he observed.

The ISP sector noted also the Government’s plan to enable rights holders to seek a court order requiring carrier level ISPs at the wholesale level to block access to websites that are operated outside of Australia and whose dominant purpose is to infringe copyright. It said that although site blocking is a relatively blunt instrument and has its share of weaknesses and limitations, it believes that an appropriately structured and safeguarded injunctive relief scheme could play an important role in addressing online copyright infringement in Australia.

If the Government proceeds down this path, therefore, careful safeguards should be built into the process, to ensure that it is not abused, nor become akin to any form of censorship.

“ISPs look forward to continued dialogue with Government and rights holders as we all deal with this important public policy issue,” concluded the Alliance’s response.

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