Copyright talks: Stalemate between ISPs and rights holders

The attorney-general's department is facilitating talks between ISPs, rights holders and consumer groups

Talks between ISPs and rights holders over copyright policing appear to have reached a stalemate.

ISPs, rights holders, consumer groups and the attorney-general’s department today met in closed-door talks about who should police copyright infringement and who should pay for it.

Steve Dalby, chief regulatory officer at iiNet, who attended the meeting, told Computerworld Australia that iiNet’s position on who should pay is an economic equation on how to stop financial losses from infringement.

“We think that the costs of operating whatever [that] process might look like ought to fall to the people that will benefit from the process and whose initiative it is, and that’s really the rights holders, whether they be film, TV, publishing, software or music [organisations],” Dalby said.

“They are likely to benefit from the reduction in infringements and we think it’s reasonable to expect that they would pay for it.”

Since the last meeting facilitated by the attorney-general, the high court decision was handed down which dismissed an appeal from the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT) that iiNet was responsible for its users downloading illegal content.

“The two major outcomes from that high court decision were one, that despite the claims of rights holders, that ISPs have no responsibility to protect their rights,” Dalby said.

“Secondly, the high court has determined that terminations or restrictions on internet service are not an acceptable remedy for people that are proven to be infringing.

"That is a massive change."

Computerworld Australia sought comment from AFACT but the organisation declined to comment on the argument advanced by ISPs.

AFACT has previously stated copyright law is not keeping up with the pace of technological change and there is a need for legislation to protect copyright owners.

“[Judges in the high court case pointed] to the fact that over half the usage of iiNet’s internet service by its customers (measured by volume) was represented by Bit Torrent file sharing which was known to be used for infringing activities,” Neil Gane, managing director at AFACT, said in a statement following the high court decision.

“We are confident the government would not want copyright infringement to go on unabated across Australian networks especially with the rollout of the NBN.”

However, rights holders have consistently stated they do not want to fund the costs involved with policing copyright infringers, Dalby said.

“From my perspective, I just wonder what they would need to do to alter that point-of-view that somebody else should pay to protect their rights,” he said.

With both rights holders and ISPs refusing to foot the bill for infringement, it appears both parties are locked in a stalemate.

“I think there’s a lot of distance between the two sides of the argument. Neither party wants to pay for the costs of policing and therefore I think if nobody’s going to fund it, then it’s just not going to go anywhere.”

The talks facilitated by the attorney-general follow industry-only talks about the issue for around 12 months.

The attorney-general’s department told Computerworld Australia today “there was [an] emerging agreement around the broad scope of an industry-based agreement, including a notice scheme, with particular focus on education and protection of consumer interests.

“Participants agreed to continue discussions to work through the details of the scheme. Participants also recognised that there is more work to be done to resolve key issues such as costs.”

While Dalby said he couldn't say he was happy with the outcome of today's talks, he said he is increasingly becoming concerned with emerging technologies hardcore infringers are using to download content, making detection harder.

"The iiNet case was all about Bit Torrent and peer-to-peer and the evidence that was tabled was about detecting people using a system that works quite well, but people that are hardcore infringers and are promoting their own websites or sources of pirate content have developed a range of alternative technologies that means that detection techniques that were used for our case are just not going to be effective to detect people using other technologies on other platforms," he said.

"Building a process to notify people that they’ve been detected infringing is pointless unless it works on those new platforms."

Follow Stephanie McDonald on Twitter: @stephmcdonald0

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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