Australian Government Reveals Plan to Crackdown on Online Piracy – but not too Hard!

The Australian Government announced last week that it will implement measures proposed by Attorney General, George Brandis, and the Australian Minister for Communications, Malcolm Turnbull, to reduce “high levels of online copyright infringement”.

The announcement is timely – given the owners of the film Dallas Buyers Club issue of proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia in November, against five internet service providers (ISPs) including iiNet, seeking orders to have the ISPs disclose the identities of alleged pirates.

However, the proposed measures do not go so far as the ‘three strikes and you are out’ approach adopted by New Zealand and France (where a subscriber will be disconnected from internet access after three notices of infringement).

In a letter addressed to industry leaders, George Brandis and Malcolm Turnbull outlined the government’s plan, stating that “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 proposed measures may include amendments to the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) to enable copyright holders to apply for injunctions against ISPs. The court will be given the power to make orders requiring ISPs to block consumers from accessing overseas-based websites that can be shown to be primarily for the purpose of facilitating online copyright infringement.

The government has also proposed that rights holders and ISPs work together to develop an industry anti-piracy code. It said that the code should address a number of objectives including:

  • a notification system in which repeat illegal downloaders are sent notices informing them they are infringing copyright
  • providing appropriate safeguards for consumers
  • fairly apportioning costs as between ISPs and rights holders
  • ensuring smaller ISPs are not unfairly affected
  • a process for facilitated discovery to assist rights holders in taking direct copyright infringement action against subscribers after an agreed number of notices.

The government’s announcement follows the release of the Online Copyright Infringement Discussion Paper earlier this year that saw more than 600 submissions from the public, internet providers, consumer groups and rights holders.

The government has warned that, if right holders and ISPs are unable to agree on a code by 8 April 2015, it will impose binding arrangements on the industry.

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