John Stanton
Communications Alliance

Communications Alliance’s John Stanton discusses copyright reform in Australia, and explains what the telecommunications sector is doing to help fight infringement

Is the threat of overseas infringement more of a problem compared to domestic infringement, and what does the Copyright Amendment Bill mean to change?

Yes, rights holders have argued that the sites that facilitate online piracy are typically hosted outside of Australia, putting them outside the reach of pre-existing legal channels. So far, rights holders in Australia have chosen not to make use of the Copyright Amendment Bill, which allows them to seek court orders forcing Australian ISPs to block access to websites that infringe their copyright, although there has been talk of a ‘test case’ being brought forward before the end of this calendar year.

ISPs have urged rights holders to speak to them in advance of any court injunction being sought to have websites blocked. ISPs would prefer to agree up-front with rights holders on which site or sites are being targeted for blocking and what blocking method is to be used. This is aimed at minimising the costs involved and ensuring the judicial process is as smooth as possible.

ISPs also want agreement from rights holders that they (the rights holders) will set up and host a landing page so that any internet user who attempts to access a site that has been blocked will receive information to tell them why this has occurred. This is important to cost minimisation because, in the absence of such a landing page, many users who try and fail to access a blocked site will assume there is a problem with their internet service and will contact their ISP, thereby tying up call centre resources and generating additional costs for the ISP.

How are ISPs handling the changes to copyright legislation?

ISPs have been preparing to engage with rights holders, but so far none of the rights holders have taken up the opportunity to make use of the new legislation—something that seems curious in light of the noise and urgency that accompanied the introduction of the new law.

ISPs have also done an enormous amount of work, through Communications Alliance, to prepare a draft Copyright Notice Scheme Code. The text of the code was completed in April this year and lodged with the regulator.

However, agreement has not yet been reached between rights holders and ISPs on some elements of the cost-sharing needed to enable the notice scheme to operate. Specifically, there is no agreement around the cost responsibility for processing infringement reports received from rights holders.

The processing includes: attempting to match allegedly infringing IP addresses to the relevant account holders; determining what type of notice (first, second or final) should be sent to the account holder; sending the notice; keeping records and compiling final notice lists for rights holders; and handling any inbound calls from account holders who have received a notice.

Are there any more suggestions in the pipeline for rights holders to allow their work to be used legally, like more affordable content?

Not that I am aware of. We have argued strongly that ensuring the availability of accessible, affordable legal content is a key ingredient in the battle against online piracy.

While some progress has been made on this front in recent times, we certainly believe that rights holders can and should do more.

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