Stakeholders have published a draft of an industry code of practice intended to drive down the rate of online copyright infringement, or ‘Internet piracy’ in Australia.
The draft code has been released by industry group Communication Alliance for public comment. Communication Alliance CEO John Stanton said it is the product of an intensive development process by Internet Service Providers and a ‘broad alliance’ of content rights holders from the music, film, TV and performing arts industries.
The code is scheduled to be submitted in final form to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) by 8 April for registration – in line with the tight timeline requested by the Government December 2014.
The code creates a ‘Copyright Notice Scheme’ through which residential fixed Internet users who are alleged to have infringed copyright online will receive an escalating series of infringement notices designed to “change their behaviour and steer them toward lawful sources of content.”
Stanton said the scheme has a strong emphasis on public education and does not contain explicit sanctions against Internet users. But it does provide for a “facilitated preliminary discovery” process through which ISPs can assist rights holders to take legal action against persistent infringers.
“The scheme contains strong safeguards against any threat to the privacy of Internet users,” said Stanton. “It allows an account holder who receives three infringement notices in a 12 month period to have the validity of the allegations independently reviewed.”
Several key issues are still under discussion between rights holders, including who will pay for the scheme and the volume of notices anticipated to be sent during its initial 18 months of operation, after which time the Government has said its effectiveness will be independently reviewed.
Stanton praised the “cooperative spirit and energy” shown by rights holders and ISPs to reach agreement on the draft. “These issues are complex, and while both industries want to eradicate online copyright infringement, it has proved very difficult in the past for rights holders and ISPs to agree on the shape of a notice scheme.
Stanton was referring to previous arguments between copyright holders over who would pay for the policing and enforcement actions of a stricter anti-piracy regimen. Rights holders have long argued that ISPs should pay, because they control customers’ access to the Internet and they benefit from the increased traffic piracy generates. ISPs have argued that rights holders should pay because they are the ones who would benefit, through increased sales of their content, from a stricter regime.
“Much work remains, but publication of the draft code is an important milestone toward greater protection for the legitimate rights of the creative industries,” Stanton said, indicating that the cost issue has still not been solved.
Rights holders involved in the code development include APRA AMCOS, ARIA, Australia Screen Association, Copyright Agency, Foxtel, Free TV Australia, Music, Rights Australia, News Corporation Australia, Village Roadshow (which has been particularly active) and World Media.
Chris Woodforde, the representative of many of the rights holders during the negotiations, said “The creative industries believe that the implementation of an effective code is an important step in protecting creative content in the online environment.
“The release of the draft code for public comment is important in achieving that goal. The creative industry representatives will continue to work with the Government, ISPs and other stakeholders to implement the code and address the serious issue of online copyright infringement.”
A Copyright Information Panel (CIP) will be created to oversee the scheme and to coordinate the public education program, including via a dedicated website. Consumer representative body ACCAN (see following article) and the Internet Society of Australia are among the stakeholders involved in the code development process.
Members of the public and other stakeholders are encouraged to comment on the draft Code by submitting comments here. The deadline for public comment is 23 March. Public comments will be taken into account before the Code is finalised and submitted to the ACMA.