Copyright notice scheme takes back seat to website blocking

‘Little progress of late’ in negotiations over copyright notice scheme

Representatives of the telecommunications and Australian content industries have yet to finalise key details of a scheme that will see alleged pirates sent a series notices warning them to cease illicit downloads.

The development of such a code has been a key pillar in the government’s move to crack down on copyright infringement, along with legislation that enables rights holders to seek court orders forcing ISPs to block their customers’ access to individual piracy-linked websites.

A letter sent to ISPs and rights holders by Attorney-General George Brandis and then communications minister Malcolm Turnbull in late 2014 called for the industry-led development of a copyright notice scheme.

The letter said that if the two sides could not come to agreement on a code to implement a scheme the government would move create one itself.

After a series of negotiations, a code was developed and lodged with the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) by telco industry body Communications Alliance.

The scheme involves a series of up to three notices within a 12-month period to be sent to ISP customers alleged by rights holders to have engaged in unauthorised downloads of copyright materials.

Although ISPs are not expected to disclose the personal details of their customers unless a rights holder obtains a court order, they are expected to facilitate an application for preliminary discovery in the case of customers who receive three notices within 12 months

However, the code lodged with the ACMA was incomplete and thus yet to be registered by the communications and media watchdog. Left out of the code were some key elements — most prominently, who would bear the costs associated with the scheme.

The division of costs between ISPs and rights holders is an issue that caused previous attempts to create a copyright notice scheme to come unstuck.

Read more: Telco complaints drop

Negotiations over the cost issue have continued.

“Negotiations between rights holders and ISPs concerning the commercial underpinnings of the draft Copyright Notice Scheme Code have made little progress of late,” Communications Alliance CEO John Stanton told Computerworld.

“ISPs and rights holders exchanged commercial proposals in late 2015 but there have been no substantive negotiations so far in 2016,” Stanton said.

“Our sense is that the higher priority at the moment for rights holders is the potential to block allegedly infringing web sites, with the cooperation of ISPs and through court injunctions, under the relevant legislation passed by Federal parliament last year.”

Foxtel and Village Roadshow are both believed to be contemplating obtaining website-blocking injunctions in the Federal Court.

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