Government set to look at new piracy legislation with emphasis on ISPs



The Federal Government is expected to act quickly on internet piracy laws as the Cabinet is set to review a two-pronged legislative proposal as early as this week.

Andrew Maiden, CEO of ASTRA, the industry body for subscription TV, said reports in Fairfax Media claiming the Cabinet will consider two proposals as early as this week are likely to be true. However,he said it is more likely they will come up next week after budget matters have been heard.

Media bosses have previously backed calls for tougher legislation, after Australia was again confirmed as one of the worst spots for piracy in the world. Read more of our piracy coverage here.

The first part of the proposal is said to be a requirement for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to be forced to block file-sharing websites, such as Pirate Bay, while the second would call on ISPs to issue warnings to people who repeatedly download content illegally.

Maiden told Mumbrella the legislative changes could come through as early as mid or late June this year, and would have an immediate impact on piracy.

“They have already made commitments to take action against piracy so I would think they would want to act sooner rather than later,” Maiden told Mumbrella.

Maiden said there will be an “announcement effect” with headlines on the issue sending a clear message to the public that piracy is wrong and inspire a change in behaviour.

“Bigger gains will be made as legislation is passed and laws change and there will be for the first time more serious consequences for doing the wrong thing,” he said.

Maiden said a warning system could be enough to change consumer behaviour and direct people towards legitimate download sites such as Foxtel’s Play and Presto services, or Quickflix.

And Lori Flekser, executive director of the IP Awareness Foundation, said research by the organisation supports this. She said 2012 research showed 71 per cent of respondents said they would stop illegal downloads and streaming if they were to receive a notification about it, and more than half, 56 per cent, of the most prolific offenders also said they would stop if warned to do so.

The move comes after Australia recorded the highest number of illegal downloads of the first episode of cult HBO/Foxtel hit Game of Thrones last month, breaking the record for the country’s already high download rate on previous series’.

It also follows lobbying from key bodies in the television and music industries which urged Attorney General George Brandis to make legislative reforms.

And Brandis said in February he was considering changes to copyright laws to target internet piracy including the introduction of third party injunctions to disrupt access to sites such as Pirate Bay and a ‘three strikes’ warning system for consumers.

The AG also said ISPs need to take responsibility for illegal downloading.

However, in an article cross-posted on Mumbrella last week Angela Daly of Swinburne University questioned the efficacy of such policies.

But Flesker told Mumbrella: “It has always been our view that ISPs might play a role in assisting combatting illegal downloads of film and television content, and what is interesting is our research also shows the public believe ISPs have a role and responsibility,” she said.

The IP Awareness Foundation also found in 2012 50 per cent of people said ISPs should take more responsibility in efforts to combat piracy.

Vanessa Hutley, general manager of Music Rights Australia (MRA) told Mumbrella she hoped Brandis would allow rights holders to go to court and get a court order that would have ISPs block these sites.

She said: “We hope the Attorney General will do as he said and allow rights holders to go to court and get a court order that would have ISPs block these sites.

“This isn’t about stopping people being on the internet, but nothing on these websites is about legitimate content.”

The AG’s office has not responded to requests for comment from Mumbrella.

Megan Reynolds


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.