Australia: Rights holders, ISPs publish draft copyright code

A new draft industry Code of Practice with the emphasis on education has been published with the aim of driving down the rate of online copyright infringement, the so-called ‘Internet piracy’ in Australia.

The draft Code, published by Communications Alliance – the primary telecommunications industry body in Australia – for public comment, is the product of an intensive development process by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and a broad alliance of Rights Holders from the music, film, television and performing arts industries.

The draft Code is scheduled to be submitted in final form to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) in April 2015 for registration – in line with the timeline requested by the Federal Government in December 2014.

The Code creates a Copyright Notice Scheme through which residential fixed Internet users who are alleged to have infringed copyright online will receive an escalating series of infringement notices designed to change their behaviour and steer them toward lawful sources of content.

The Scheme has a strong emphasis on public education and does not contain explicit sanctions against Internet users, but does provide for a ‘facilitated preliminary discovery’ process through which ISPs can assist Rights Holders who may decide to take legal action against persistent infringers.

The Scheme contains strong safeguards against any threat to the privacy of Internet users and allows an account holder who receives three infringement notices in a 12 month period to have the validity of the allegations independently reviewed. Several key issues are still under discussion between Rights Holders, including elements of the funding arrangements for the Scheme and the volume of notices anticipated to be sent during the Scheme’s initial 18 months of operation.

Communication Alliance CEO, John Stanton, praised the cooperative spirit and energy shown by Rights Holders and ISPs to reach agreement on the draft. “These issues are complex and while both industries want to eradicate online copyright infringement, it has proved very difficult in the past for Rights Holders and ISPs to agree on the shape of a notice scheme,” he admitted.

“Much work remains, but publication of a draft Code is an important milestone toward greater protection for the legitimate rights of the creative industries,” he added.

Rights Holders involved in the Code development include APRA AMCOS, ARIA, Australia Screen Association, Copyright Agency, Foxtel, Free TV Australia, Music Rights Australia, News Corporation Australia, Village Roadshow Limited and World Media.

Chris Woodforde, the representative of many of the Rights Holders during the negotiations said: “The creative industries believe that the implementation of an effective code is an important step in protecting creative content in the online environment. The release of the draft code for public comment is important in achieving that goal. The creative industry representatives will continue to work with the Government, ISPs and other stakeholders to implement the code and address the serious issue of online copyright infringement.”

A Copyright Information Panel (CIP) will be created to oversee the Scheme and to coordinate the public education programme, including via a dedicated website.

Consumer representative body ACCAN and the Internet Society of Australia are among the stakeholders involved in the Code development process.

Members of the public and other stakeholders are encouraged to comment on the draft Code by submitting comments before 23 March 2015. Public comments will be taken into account before the Code is finalised and submitted to the ACMA.

The effectiveness of the Code will be independently evaluated 18 months after its commencement.

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