Brandis and Turnbull tackle digital piracy

The Australian Government has today released its Online Copyright Infringement discussion paper (the Paper) as a first step in developing a new framework to help protect Australia’s copyright industries, which according to the Paper, employs 900,000 people and generates more than $90 billion for the economy, including $7 billion in exports.

The Paper, released by Senator George Brandis QC (Attorney-General and Minister for the Arts) and Malcolm Turnbull MP (Minister for Communications), sees the Government proposing three key amendments to the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) (Copyright Act) to help in the fight against digital piracy, namely:

  • amending the Copyright Act to clarify the application of authorisation liability under sections 36 and 101 to ISPs;
  • amending the Copyright Act to enable rights holders to apply to a court for an order against ISPs to block access to an internet site operated outside Australia, the dominant purpose of which is to infringe copyright; and
  • extending the application of the safe harbour scheme to entities engaged in the activities set out in sections 116AC to 116AF of the Copyright Act by removing the reference to carriage service provider and replacing it with a definition of ‘service provider’, being any person who engages in activities defined in sections 116AC to 116AF – with the effect that more entities would be captured by the safe harbour regime.

The Government Paper notes that “this framework aims to provide certainty as to legal liability, streamline the process by which rights holders can seek relief from the courts to block access to websites providing infringing material, and provide an incentive for market participants to work together to address online copyright infringement.

There have been initial responses to the Paper by interested parties, including ASTRA and the Communications Alliance.

ASTRA, the subscription television industry body, issued a media release today publicising the results of a poll conducted by market research company Auspoll. The poll found that 60% of its respondents agree with the proposition that individuals who facilitate piracy should face prosecution. 11% of respondents disagreed with the proposition. ASTRA CEO Andrew Maiden said:

“By proposing tougher measures to crack down on piracy, the Government is reflecting the views of a majority of Australians who believe that piracy is theft.”

The Communications Alliance, whose members include Australia’s major ISPs, said in a media release that they welcomed the Paper’s release, but urged caution around several of the reform proposals. Communications Alliance CEO John Stanton said:

“We believe that for any scheme designed to address online copyright infringement to be sustainable it must also stimulate innovation by growing the digital content market, so Australians can continue to access and enjoy new and emerging content, devices and technologies.

“The ISP members of Communications Alliance remain willing to work toward a solution that balances the interests of all stakeholders, including consumers.”

This Paper is the start of the reform process so expect to hear more from all key stakeholders as they seek to work with the Government to develop a new framework to help reduce digital piracy rates in Australia.

The Government is accepting written responses to the questions set out in the Paper until Monday 1 September 2014.  Written responses can be made via the online form, by post or by email.

For further information on the Paper and to download a copy of it, head to the Attorney-General’s website – Online copyright infringement—public consultation.


Online Copyright Infringement – Discussion Paper

Australia’s ISPs Continue to Support Efforts to Help Combat Online Copyright Infringement

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