Deadline looms for voluntary ISP code on illegal piracy

Internet providers are putting the last minute touches on a draft piracy code to tackle illegal downloading before a Federal Government deadline this Friday. game-of-thrones-234x131

Companies including iiNet, Telstra and Optus have all contributed to the industry code, which came about after ultimatum which sees the Government put the onus of tackling piracy back on the copyright holders giving them 120 days to agree a “industry code” before they look to pass any legislation, after an extensive consultation period with industry.

Late last year Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Attorney General George Brandis issued a joint release announcing the move and changes to the Copyright Act to allow rights holders to ask internet service providers to block access to websites operated outside Australia which give access to their content unlawfully.

An Optus spokeswoman told Mumbrella the company was working with the wider industry to meet the Government’s deadline, but added better consumer education and better pricing and accessibility to content were needed to solve the problem of illegal downloads.

“Optus appreciates the need to balance a range of views when it comes to dealing with online copyright infringement,” the spokeswoman said.

We are committed to working with the ISP industry, consumer representatives and copyright owners to address this issue through the development of a workable Industry Code.”

“While the draft Code is an important step, Optus believes a range of measures are required to deter the practice of online copyright infringement, including consumer education about the risks of breaching copyright, and further steps to provide Australian consumers with fairly priced and timely access to content.”

The Communications Alliance CEO John Stanton said that his organisation supported a balanced approach to the issue and supported the government’s moves.

“Australia’s ISPs do not condone or authorise internet piracy and our industry is willing to contribute strongly to fighting the problem, while ensuring that the rights of customers are fully respected,” he said.

However he was quick to point out that pricing and availability of content by those who owned the content was a key issue in overcoming illegal downloads.

“Of course the success of any scheme will depend, in part, on continuing efforts by rights holders to make affordable content available in a timely manner to Australia consumers – thereby removing much of the consumer frustration that presently drives piracy.”

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Late last year the Alliance released a report which found most Australians agreed with a crackdown but also said affordability and availability of pricing were major problem and that “most Australians believe they are paying more than 200% over the ‘optimal price’ for downloaded television episodes.”

“This research comes as the Government considers responses to its discussion paper on online copyright policy options. It paints a picture not of a nation of rampant pirates, but rather a majority of people who agree that action taken should include steps to reduce the market distortions that contribute to piracy”, Stanton said late last year.

The code must be registered with the Australian communications and Media Authority (ACMA), and include a “process to notify consumers when a copyright breach has occurred and provide information on how they can gain access to legitimate content”.

Whilst stopping short of introducing stiff penalties for offenders such as  slowing down internet speeds, and introducing fines, the move does put the onus on ISPs to tackle the issue.

Film companies like Village Roadshow have been throwing hundreds of thousands of dollars at governments to crack down on piracy as well as lobbying behind closed doors for new legislation.

Some film companies are already pursuing ISPs through the courts with the makers of The Dallas Buyers Club film court at the moment in an action against iiNet and other companies that could see Australians chased over alleged online piracy.

If the industry cannot agree on a set of standards the government will look to legislate, whilst any measures imposed now will be looked at again in 18 months to assess their effectiveness.

iiNet and Telstra had not given responses to Mumbrella at the time of writing.

Robert Burton-Bradley


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