The ISP industry has proposed constructive strategies to combat online copyright infringement, but warned that elements of the Federal Government’s current proposals would damage industry and consumers alike.
The Communications Alliance submission in response to the government’s discussion paper on online copyright infringement provides a detailed set of recommendations, underlined by ISPs’ willingness to engage in good faith discussions with government and right holders to address what all acknowledge is a significant problem.
The telecommunications industry body is strongly opposed to the government’s proposed amendments to extend authorisation liability in the Copyright Act, because it claims they would create risk and uncertainty for consumers and service providers and would have potentially damaging outcomes for a wide range of Australian businesses and organisations, including universities, libraries, retailers, Cloud-based services providers and Internet cafes.
“We recommend that the Government consider closely the Follow the Money strategies being pursued in the UK, which attack the viability of infringing websites by choking off the flow of advertising revenues”, Communications Alliance CEO, John Stanton, said.
“We strongly believe that any package of measures must include continued efforts by rights holders to make lawful content accessible to Australian consumers in a timely and affordable way – thereby reducing the temptation to infringe that flows from consumers not being able to get hold of content when they want it.”
Stanton said that Communications Alliance and its ISP members were ready to engage in good faith discussions with rights holders on a potential industry-agreed scheme to combat infringement.
“We are by no means convinced that a graduated response scheme would be effective, but we have spelled out in our submission what such a scheme could potentially look like," he said.
“A range of issues would need to be resolved – not least who would pay for such a scheme. “We reject the rights holders’ view that Australian internet users should foot the bill – via ISPs – for doing the rights holders’ police work. Rights holders have existing legal rights – seldom used – to take action against anyone who infringes their copyright.
“The economic beneficiaries of any reduction in online infringement will be the rights holders, who – if they want an industry-agreed scheme – must recognise the need for them to reimburse the reasonable costs that ISPs would incur in helping to fight infringement,” Stanton said.
Communications Alliance has supported the Government’s proposed amendment to extend the safe harbour provisions of the Copyright Act, but has also suggested that the Government consider going further, by implementing a conditional immunity framework for carriers, carriage service providers, hosts and online service providers.
“We believe that the Government proposal for an extended injunction power to block infringing websites has weaknesses and limitations, but nonetheless have proposed safeguards and features that, if incorporated, mean that site-blocking could play a useful role in addressing online copyright infringement in Australia,” Stanton said.