In advance of a public forum on online piracy to be held next week by Australian Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, David Thodey, CEO of telco Telstra has set out a multi-pronged approach including raising awareness about the importance of copyright, court ordered blocking of offending overseas websites, education notices to customers who are identified by rights holders as downloading content without permission, and a streamlined judicial process for the small number of repeat infringers.
Writing an opinion piece for Australian daily newspaper The Australian, Thodey recognises that online piracy is an important issue that often leads to heated debate with passionate views on all sides. “But it is a debate we must have, as more needs to be done to help protect copyright in this country. There have been a range of views expressed as part of the Government’s consultations around changes to copyright law, and there will be further discussion when hosts a public forum on the issue next week,” he says.
“Telstra is actively participating in this policy process because this issue is important to our customers and we believe industry needs to take the lead in achieving a reasonable, practical solution to the problem,” he states.
“If you invest the talent, time and money to create content — be it a song, photo, design, movie or TV show — and other people want to consume that content, then it is your right to set a price,” he declares.
“Copyright infringement takes away this choice and as such it is plainly wrong. People may be frustrated by the price or availability of a movie or TV show. While the frustration is real, it is not a justification to use it without permission.”
He says that Australia needed a solution that provided a level playing field, was low cost and caused the minimum amount of disruption to consumers.
In responding to the federal government’s Online Copyright Infringement Discussion Paper, Telstra suggested that proposed changes to the Copyright Act to extend liability for online infringement to ISPs should be dropped. “This would require us all to police what our customers or patrons do online, contrary to well established legal principles and at significant cost and risk to people’s privacy,” he contends.
Instead, he suggests that Telstra’s approach would place the onus on rights holders to identify who is infringing their copyright and to take action against ‘repeat infringers’, while ISPs take simple practical steps to assist the rights holders.