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Improvements in the affordability and ready availability of online content in Australia are crucial ingredients to reduce online copyright infringement, Communications Alliance – the primary telecommunications industry body in Australia – has said in response to new research released by the Minister for Communications, Malcolm Turnbull.
Welcoming the research initiative, Communications Alliance CEO John Stanton said it pointed to the need for heightened efforts by rights holders to make legal online content available to Australian internet users in a timely and affordable way, as part of an integrated strategy to minimise online infringement.
Infringers said that the top three factors that would encourage them to stop infringing were:
A reduction in the cost of legal content (39 per cent)
Legal content being more available (38 per cent); and
Legal content being available as soon as it is released elsewhere (36 per cent)
Only 21 per cent of infringers said they would be encouraged to stop infringing if they received a letter from their ISP saying their account would be suspended.
“These results suggest that while there is a role for a copyright notice scheme Code in Australia to assist in fighting infringement, more work needs to be done to make legal content more affordable and more available, to combat the root causes of infringing activity,” Stanton said.
“It is interesting that almost three quarters of those Internet users who consumed content illegally were also accessing content legally – they were apparently not just looking exclusively for a ‘free ride’, but also were chasing the convenience that comes with ready availability of content.”
Communications Alliance, internet service providers (ISPs) and rights holders have cooperatively written a copyright notice scheme code (which does not includes sanctions such as suspension of consumers’ accounts) and have submitted it to the industry regulator, the ACMA. Negotiations are ongoing between the parties to finalise a commercial agreement, including cost-sharing, that will allow the Code and scheme to begin operating.
Extensive negotiations over cost-sharing have not yet resulted in an agreement, so ISPs and rights holders have jointly commissioned work by an independent expert to look at the costs that ISPs will incur to process Infringement Notices.
“The widespread pattern of online infringement in Australia, indicated by the research, underlines the fact that rights holders – as indicated by the Government – should be ready to pay the majority of the costs of operating a copyright notice scheme, given the enormous financial upside that will flow to rights holders from changing the behaviour of online infringers,” Stanton stated.
“Significantly, only five per cent of infringers said that nothing would make them stop their activity – so the right combination of initiatives can certainly make an impact on what ISPs agree is a serious problem,” he concluded.