news The Federal Government has reportedly held a second closed door meeting held between the content and telecommunications industries to address the issue of illegal file sharing on the Internet through avenues such as BitTorrent.
The first meeting in the series held by the Attorney-General’s Department on 23 September last year, saw major Australian ISPs sit down with the representatives of the film, television and music industries with the aim of discussing a potential industry resolution to the issue of online copyright infringement. The issue has come to the fore over the past several years due to the high-profile court case on the matter ongoing between iiNet and the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft.
The Financial Review reported late last week (full article here) that the Department had held a second meeting on the issue on Wednesday last week in Sydney. However, no details are yet available on what was discussed at the meeting.
The majority of the organisations who attended the September meeting were from content industry organisations, including the Asia-Pacific branch of the Motion Picture Association, the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft, Foxtel, the Australian Home Entertainment Distributor’s Association, the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance, News Limited, Music Industry Piracy Investigations, the Australian Recording Industry Association, the Interactive Gaming and Entertainment Association, the Australian Publishers Association and the Australian Performing Right Association.
On the ISPs’ side, only Telstra, Optus, the Communications Alliance (which represents telcos), the Internet Industry Association and networking vendor Ericsson attended — although Telstra and Optus both sent a number of staff to the meeting. It is not clear whether iiNet attended. All up, about 25 industry representatives attended.
Delimiter today filed a Freedom of Information request with the Attorney-General’s Department seeking the following documents with respect to the new meeting held last week:
- A list of all attendees at the meeting
- Notes of any and all attendees at the meeting from any government agency
- A copy of any documentation issued to attendees at the meeting
- Any and all email correspondence related to the calling and conduct of the meeting
- Any correspondence between the office of the Secretary of the Department and the Office of the Attorney-General discussing the meeting before or after it was held
At the last meeting on the issue, documents released under Freedom of Information laws revealed that the Attorney-General’s Department hoped to frame the discussion on the day through the lens of the so-called “six strikes” policy to tackling online copyright infringement agreed between the content and ISP industries in the US this year.
Under the deal, major US ISPs — including AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, Cablevision, and Time Warner Cable agreed with the film and music industries to forward copyright infringement notices from content owners to alleged Internet pirates. After five or six of these notices, ISPs have agreed to institute certain punitive measures, including, for example, temporary reductions in Internet speeds, redirections to educational pages and pages to discuss the problem.
There is speculation in the industry that one potential resolution to the issue of online piracy could be the implementation of a so-called ‘strikes’ system, which would see internet users disconnected after content owners had complained a certain amount of times and provided evidence that a certain user was committing copyright infringement online. Such systems have already been implemented in countries such as New Zealand and France.
So far, the ISP industry has resisted implementing such a system in Australia, although a number of ISPs — such as Exetel, for example — have already voluntarily implemented a system whereby the receipt of a certain number of complaints will eventually lead to a request for a customer to churn to another ISP. AFACT has signalled to ISPs that it wants an “automated processing system” for copyright infringement notices to be distributed to ISP customers.
In November, many of Australia’s largest ISPs banded together behind a proposal which would see Australians issued with warning and educational notices after content holders provided evidence that they had breached their copyright online — and the door opened for ISPs to hand over user details to the content industry if they keep on pirating content online.