Thursday, 14 March 2013 19:05

Australian lawyer sceptical of new US Copyright Alert System (CAS)

By Alan Arnott

In April 2012, the High Court of Australia dismissed an appeal made by 34 Australian and United States film studios and other owners or licensees of copyright in commercially released films and television programmes.  The judgment handed down by the Court sent a shockwave through the Australian telecommunications industry with one message: that internet service providers could not be held liable for copyright infringement carried out by their users.

Following the decision, the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT) called on the Australian Government requesting that the government step in and take action on the issue of internet piracy in Australia.  It remains to be seen however, what legislative reform the Australian Government will implement to address internet piracy that continues unabated.  

In the United States, the Copyright Alert System (CAS) has recently commenced operation. The CAS is reportedly an agreement between five Internet Service Providers in the United States and copyright holders RIAA and MPAA, and is designed to address internet piracy. The CAS will impose increasingly serious punishments in response to pirating of copyright material via a six strike system.

Reportedly, each of the participating ISPs will determine the trigger for each strike and the response with the initial punishment likely to involve the infringing user receiving an email and/or voicemail with notification that they have been detected illegally transmitting copyright material. The next steps include redirecting the infringer to certain educational material, and finally the system punishes the user by slowing the user’s internet connection for a period of time. Each step in the punishment chain is implemented following detection by the ISP.

The CAS is not a legislative response by government. It is a private contractual arrangement between a number of parties operating in the United States.

While it will no doubt be very interesting to see what sort of response and results the CAS achieves, I am highly sceptical of its likelihood for success.

My opinion is that “people don’t’ need to be educated on why it is wrong to carry out internet piracy. It is likely that people that are illegally downloading copyright material are savvy enough to be aware that what they are doing is wrong. These are the same people that will find ways to circumvent detection by the system. The only thing that will have any real world effect is legislative reform that imposes swift and serious consequences on wrongdoers.”    

Alan Arnott is a technology lawyer with Arnotts Technology Lawyers in Sydney.

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