Net content bill fails to appease industry

Key amendments to new legislation aimed at censoring the Internet have removed much of its sting as far as Internet businesses are concerned.

That is the view in influential sectors of the ISP industry although the Internet content legislation passed last week continues to provoke outrage among civil libertarians and many small ISP operators.

Fears by Internet service providers (ISPs) and Internet content hosts should lessen as the effects of the amendments become more widely known, said Internet Industry Association (IIA) executive director Peter Coroneos.

Industry efforts, plus those of Labor Senator Kate Lundy, managed to qualify the legislation to clearly indicate that commercial and technical considerations will be key elements in determining what constitutes a "reasonable" regulatory regime, Coroneos said.

Athough the legislation is due to go into law on July 1, it will not take effect until the end of this year as consultation takes place between the industry and the Australian Broadcasting Authority to agree on the underlying code of conduct to which ISPs will be held.

"We have a bit of hard work ahead of us to come up with measures which will broadly satisfy the object of the legislation but minimise the impact on the industry, particularly the smaller players," said IIA chairman Patrick Fair.

"But the safeguards are in there to afford a reasonable degree of comfort . . . we have had a significant victory in the context of very bad legislation."

Also won was the right for ISPs to supply different levels of service to customers who have different degrees of sophistication. The legislation recognises there may be no need to supply a second layer of controls on access services supplied to major companies or government departments that already deploy their own firewalls and content enforcement policies.

At the end of the day, the overall economic impact on ISPs may be minimal when it comes to ensuring the appropriate blocking and filtering software is in place, Coroneos suggested.

Not everyone is convinced, including David Wood, a director of Web developer and content host provider Plugged In.

"We may have to spend thousands of dollars with lawyers to find out where we stand with the new laws and pay for programmers to create the compliance software.

"On top of that, I am vehemently opposed to government-mandated censorship and don't like being responsible for doing their censorship for them."

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