Cheers and jeers over anti-piracy laws

Proposals to change the enforcement of copyright to crack down on online piracy have sparked debate over the legacy of the iiNet court case

Federal government proposals to amend copyright laws have drawn support from rights holders and copyright organisations but some aspects of the enforcement regime outlined in a discussion paper released yesterday have raised concerns among ISPs and consumer advocates.

The discussion paper (PDF) explicitly seeks to undo the victory of iiNet in a case brought against the ISP by movie studios.

The High Court's decision in that case, which was brought by a group of movie studios, "determined that the ISP, iiNet, was not liable for authorising the copyright infringements of its subscribers using systems that iiNet did not operate or control, and that there were no reasonable steps that could have been taken by iiNet to reduce its subscribers' infringements," the discussion paper states.

"The effect of the decision is to severely limit the circumstances in which an ISP can be found liable for authorising an act by a subscriber that infringes copyright."

This morning in an ABC radio interview communications minister Malcolm Turnbull defended proposals contained in the discussion paper, which include putting more of an onus on ISPs to enforce copyright including potentially blocking sites that house infringing content.

Turnbull described Internet piracy as a "massive problem for the content creators of Australia and right around the world".

"It is really undermining a very important industry globally and it is simply theft," the minister said.

Turnbull cited the three strikes scheme in New Zealand as an example of what could be implemented in Australia.

"In new Zealand where an ISP is advised by the rights owners that an IP address... has downloaded a movie an illegal movie, the ISP is required to send a notice to the account holder," Turnbull said.

"And after they've sent three notices in respect of different violations then it's up to the rights holder then, if they want to, to take the customer to court and seek to recover some damages."

Turnbull also said that rights owners needed to consider whether they were doing enough to discourage piracy: "If you want to discourage piracy, the best thing you can do — and the music industry is a very good example of this, the way they've responded — the best thing you can do is to make your content available globally universally and affordably ."

Pay TV operator Foxtel and the Copyright Agency, a royalties collection organisation, have both indicated support for changes to copyright law.

A Foxtel statement said that "government should put in place a regulatory system that encourages legitimate use and discourages illegitimate use of content, while content owners need to make content available quickly and conveniently".

"ISPs should also assist by mitigating, to the extent they can, use of their networks for unauthorised purposes," the statement added.

"Foxtel acknowledges the comments in the discussion paper that everyone has a part to play in reducing the incidents of online piracy and we look forward to constructively engaging in the discussion of how to give effect to the principles that underpin the government’s position," Foxtel CEO, Richard Freudenstein, 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 CEO of the Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association CEO, Andrew Maiden, said.

Maiden said that the pay TV sector would work with ISPs to make sure that content owners and carriers shared the cost of a new anti-piracy regime.

"The industry will continue taking supply-side steps that make it easier for Australian television viewers to act lawfully," Maiden said.

"But the fact that someone may wish services were cheaper or offered on different terms is no better an excuse for piracy than for shoplifting,"

Copyright Agency chief executive Murray St Leger said that Australians "overwhelmingly want creators to be paid for the work they distribute online". The organisation believes that copyright reform is overdue.

"We want an internet that works for everyone — creators, consumers, tech providers and ISPs, and that means effective measures to reduce online piracy are paramount," St Leger said.

A statement issued by Greens Senator Scott Ludlam said that Turnbull "appears to have undergone a Damascene conversion on the issue of Internet piracy".

"Just two years ago, Turnbull said the High Court came to 'the right decision' when it found that ISPs such as iiNet were not responsible for their users pirating film and TV content on the Internet," the statement said.

"But last week Turnbull put his name to a discussion paper which openly canvasses overturning the judgement."

Consumer group Choice earlier this week criticised the discussion paper's anti-piracy proposals as likely to be ineffective and failing to deal with the root causes of unauthorised downloading of content. The group wants action on the so-called 'Australia tax': The name given to the significant difference in price of digital goods bought in Australia compared to other nations.

The group has called on the government to implement decisions contained in the report of an inquiry into IT pricing in Australia. The inquiry's report, At what cost? IT pricing and the Australia tax was tabled in July last year. As yet there has been no government response to the report.

The Communications Alliance, an industry body for telcos and ISPs, has welcomed the release of the paper. However, the organisation's chief, John Stanton, said that its members don't agree that the iiNet court decision undermined Australia's international obligations with respect to copyright.

Stanton said that the expansion of authorisation liability in the Copyright Act "has the potential to capture many other entities, including schools, universities, libraries and cloud-based services in ways that may hamper their legitimate activities and disadvantage consumers"

The Comms Alliance is calling for "a holistic end-to-end approach, supported by Government, rights holders, ISPs and consumers" and other measures such as better access to content for consumers, legal protection for ISPs, and independent oversight for a copyright enforcement regime.

Follow Rohan on Twitter: @rohan_p

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Tags George BrandiscopyrightiiNetMalcom Turnbullpiracy

More about ABC NetworksAndrew Corporation (Australia)Communications AllianceCopyright AgencyFoxtelIinetScott Corporation

6 Comments

Rex

1

The Copyright Agency, the same mob who spend their time ringing companies to see if they have music on hold, and then send letters of demand to pay a fee for music on hold. Lets not forget the laughable court case in which Men at Work were found guilty for a tune that apparently breached copyright, copyright that was brought by some small obscure American rights holder who has no problem with the fact the tune existed in German folk songs way before copyright was ever invented. Lets look at copyright amendments that were made in 2005 or 2006 that excluded copying TV shows onto set top boxes due to the fact that close to several million Australians would be guilty of copyright infringements and therefore criminals. You can't exclude one aspect of copying media content then demand enforcement of another which is no different. How is my buying a DVD movie, watching it, then lending it to my friends to watch any different to my recording it and putting it up on a VPN for them to download and watch. There is no difference, the only thing that drives copyright is greed. The studios and advocates cry poor and say industry is threatened yet they produce box office records every year. Why should it be the individuals problem that a studio paid an actor millions of dollars and the movie flops, it has nothing to do with Illegal downloading, the movie was crap therefore no one wants to watch it. Lets look at Foxtel, who when originally starting up in Australia promised no ads during subscribed shows then went on to add them anyway. Did they not breach their contract with their subscribers? Where was the redress for them? I also take issue with Foxtel repeating everything. I can watch six months worth and not bother with the next six because they are just repeating what was already shown six months prior. What about novelists? They cannot run around knocking on people doors and demanding a book they bought be shown to prove they haven't lent it to someone else to read. The studios demands of ISP's is basically using ISP's as a secret police who spy on people then dob them in. It is covert surveillance and it breaks privacy laws. You cannot have laws then exclude sectors of the community from complying with them, it makes that law a joke and not one to be taken seriously. That is how i view the suggested copyright amendments. A JOKE.

Rex

2

I would also like to add that if these ridiculous amendments were made law and an ISP was informed of a breach made by me then i will be requesting who gave them that information and then pursing that entity in court for a breach of privacy, namely illegally surveying my internet history. Why? Surely their actions are no different from someone breaking into your house to look for incriminating evidence. In court that action would have all evidence thrown out of court. You cannot break one law to enforce another. If the ISP cites privacy and won't tell me then i would be asking a court to have the ISP explain why it will protect the privacy of those who have invaded my privacy but will not say exactly the same to those who wish the ISP to divulge my information. The government is NOT allowed to snoop on your internet practices, it is illegal and only certain acts of the terrorism laws and child pornography laws allow them to do it. Why then would a government allow studios to have that right when the government itself doesn't. This isn't about illegal downloading, it's about eroding privacy laws that are there to protect the individuals privacy from others.

Rob

3

About time the wild west dident stay wild for ever the net needs some rules and protections for content creators. If you like music, tv shows and movies they have to be able to get payed for their efforts. No money no shows. Say you create a product years in the making release it onto the market the next minute unlimited number of knockoffs are given away for free. This is what is happen now. We dident play nice so now there are going to be some rules. Internet access is a privilege not a right.

pirate pete

4

rob......hahahaha.....good luck with that......you are obviously technilogically illeterate!......get a job with the liberal party........you can be their head computer man!

Ungougable Customer

5

The high court ruled that expecting iiNet to enforce deep packet inspection, data retention, automate service disconnection, and deal with both the customer fallout and management costs to such a scheme, would be unreasonable, and that the existing methods of copyright enforcement were sufficient.

I'm actually not quite sure why the liberal party wants to overturn iiNet's decision, when precedent has no bearing on legislation. They can mandate any part of the overturned decision without overturning it. But they don't actually want to mandate any of those things.

Spotify/Google Music/MOG/JB Hifi music all arrived here about 5-10 years too late, but now that they're here they're being used. It's time for Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and Amazon to be allowed to do so with American licenses.

But the government can't mandate that, nor can those companies. It's the studio contracts that are in place that prevent it.

e.g:
a) Studios cry blue murder because people are getting their stuff for free, and it's not prevented by the law.
b) Customers cry blue murder because they can't buy the american product locally at an american price, but that kind of regional discrimination is not prevented by the law.
c) Government tries to enforce a), placing no emphasis on b).

I'd be OK with the studios getting more power over legally prosecuting pirates internationally (cutting down on the jurisdiction and red tape with international piracy legislation, that requires countries to become signatories and content is allowed/disallowed based on country membership), if it came with an obligation to offer them an internationally priced and supplied product in order to allow that prosecution.

Otherwise, problems such as people playing xbox 360 or steam games in regions not supported by GFWL/Xbox Live become the same casualty. Even though the customers resorting to these measures are actually making the studio money.

Alex Satrapa

6

Rob, the Internet was a nice, civilised place until the corporations came along. Given your predilection for US history, the nearest analogy I can think of is the Carpet Baggers following the US Civil War.

We aren't playing their game, so these corporations are going to piss in our pool until we start paying them for clean water.

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