news A coalition of most of the nation’s major ISPs has proposed a scheme for handling Internet piracy 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.
The coalition includes Telstra, Optus, iiNet, Internode and Primus, but not TPG, Dodo or Exetel. It is working on collaboration with network equipment manufacturer Ericsson and industry groups the Communications Alliance and the Internet Industry Association.
In a statement released this afternoon by the Communications Alliance, the group noted that the scheme would require ISPs to forward “education and warning notices” to customers whose broadband connections have been detected undertaking activity which “might” infringe copyright laws. Once a customer had been forwarded three warnings and one education notice, ISPs would send what is terms a “discovery notice” to the account holder, warning them that they have apparently failed to address issues set out in the previous notices and their details may be subpoenaed by the copyright holder which had filed the complaint.
The ISP will, at that time, also notify the copyright holder that the Internet user concerned had failed to address the issues of online copyright infringement. The copyright holder may then seek to apply for access to the Internet user’s details and identity through a subpoena or ‘discovery’ application directly with the ISP.
“Should the ISP be served with a valid preliminary discovery order (or subpoena), the ISP will be required to comply with the order, which may require the ISP to disclose the account holder’s details to the rights holder,” the ISPs noted in a discussion paper proposing the scheme. The paper is available in full online (PDF). After they had obtained Internet users’ details, copyright holders would then be able to take legal action directly against the users.
The scheme does not provide for the termination of Internet user’s broadband access, not for any action to be imposed on customers directly by ISPs; in addition, the ISPs notes that it gives consumers the right to appeal warning notices.
In Communciations Alliance’s statement, the organisation’s chief executive John Stanton described the initiative as a positive step by ISPs to address what he said was “a complex and contentious set of issues that society had been struggling with for years”.
“We believe the Notice Scheme can greatly reduce online copyright infringement in Australia, while protecting consumer rights, educating consumers about how to address legal online content and helping rights holders to protect their rights,” Stanton said. “Equally important is the need for Rights Holders to ensure that consumers have access to legal and affordable content online, to reduce the motivation to source content in ways that might be illegal.”
The ISPs are proposing that the scheme would be undertaken on a trial basis over an 18 month period; following this period, an “independent evaluation” would be conducted into its effectiveness, including examining whether it produced a real change in consumer behaviour, and whether it should be continued in its initial form or modified for improvement.
Stanton said the proposal by ISPs would require further consultation with Rights Holders, consumer representatives, the Federal Government and the broader ISP sector before full details and an implementation timetable could be finalised. “We look forward to continuing the discussions with Rights Holders, consumer representatives, the broader ISP community and the Federal Government, then to launching an agreed scheme that is that is efficient, fair and cost-effectivefor all parties, particularly consumers,” he said.
The proposal of the scheme comes as the Federal Attorney-General’s Department has recently been holding talks between content owners and ISPs over the issue of online copyright infringement. However, the talks have been held behind closed doors and few of the parties involved have been willing to reveal what was discussed.
The ‘subpoena’ approach to dealing with online copyright infringement has also been a subject of great debate over the past few months in Australia. The approach is one proposed by a new organisation, Movie Rights Group, a new organisation which was set up in Australia last year with the aim of protecting the copyright rights of content owners in the film industry. In mid-October it was revealed that MRG had approached every major Australian ISP seeking information on users who had allegedly infringed copyright online, initially seeking the details of some 9,000 Australians who it claimed had downloaded the film Kill the Irishman.
However, since that date, Movie Rights Group’s website has been shut down, and the organisation’s vice president of sales and marketing has left the organisation.
Opinion/analysis to follow in a separate article.