Australia announces steps to tackle online piracy

The Australian Government has announced new measures to ensure Australians make informed choices when accessing online content and to strengthen the industry’s ability to tackle online copyright infringement.

Copyright protection provides an essential mechanism for ensuring the viability and success of creative industries by incentivising and rewarding creators. The rapid growth of the Internet has brought significant challenges to the protection of copyright, due to the ease with which material can be digitally copied and shared, at little or no cost.

The Government has sought the least burdensome and most flexible way of responding to concerns about online copyright infringement, while protecting the legitimate interests of the rights holders in the protection of their intellectual property.

The Attorney-General and the Minister for Communications have written to industry leaders requiring them to immediately develop an industry code that will be registered with the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) under Part 6 of the Telecommunications Act 1997. The code 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.

Failing agreement within 120 days, the Government 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, to enable rights holders to apply for a court order requiring ISPs to block access to a website, operated outside of Australia, which provides access to infringing content.

In a world of rapid changes in technology and human behaviour, there is no single measure that can eliminate online copyright infringement, suggests the Government. In light of this the Government will review the measures, 18 months after they are implemented, to assess their effectiveness.

The issue of affordability and accessibility of legitimate content is a key factor in reducing online copyright infringement. The Government welcomes recent action by content owners and expects industry to continue to respond to this demand from consumers in the digital market.

These measures, to be introduced in early 2015, follow extensive consultation with industry and consumer groups and evaluation of submissions to the Online Copyright Infringement Discussion Paper.

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