Choice campaigns against 'Hollywood horror film' copyright code

Cap potential payouts to rights holders, consumer group says

Advocacy group Choice has launched a campaign to push for more protections for consumers in the impending copyright enforcement code for Internet service providers.

The draft code, which was drawn up by representatives of the telecommunications industry and rights holders and had input from consumer groups including Choice, was unveiled last week by Communications Alliance.

"The scheme reads like the script of a Hollywood horror film," Choice's Erin Turner said.

"It would see average teenagers, mums and dads facing uncapped fines and legal threats. It’s truly scary."

The codes centres on a series of escalating notices sent to ISP customers if rights holders detect the unauthorised sharing of copyright material linked to an individual accountholder's IP address.

Following three warnings in the space of 12 months, ISPs will "on the request of a Rights Holder, facilitate an expedited preliminary discovery process," the draft code states.

A discovery process will allow a rights holder to potentially target an alleged pirate in a lawsuit.

Choice argues that the system will allow large businesses to "drive average Australians into the court system".

"The scheme also forces internet service providers to act as an anti-piracy police force on behalf of Hollywood rights holders, handing over personal contact details on the basis of unproven allegations," Turner said.

The group has launched an open letter that it is calling on the communications minister, Malcolm Turnbull, to ensure there are consumer safeguards in any copyright enforcement policy.

Choice is calling for a copyright enforcement scheme to include limits on the amount of damages that can be sought by rights holders and for rights holders to be required to tell consumers where they can legally any access content that they allegedly pirated.

In addition, the group said that rights holders should foot the bill for any scheme. Previously who will pay has been a major barrier to the development of the kind of notice scheme outlined in the draft code, with ISPs and rights holders at odds of the issue.

"If ISPs end up paying the lion's share of administration costs, these are likely to be passed on to their consumers," Turner said.

"We don’t think consumers should be footing the bill for an ineffective industry initiative."

Choice also said that a $25 fee in the code to appeal a notice of copyright infringement should be scrapped.

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), which also participated in the code's drafting, has previously said it is concerned about the potential for rights holders to use evidence gathered through the scheme to take court action that would disconnect consumers.