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Government releases discussion paper on online copyright infringement

The Federal Government is seeking feedback on its ‘Online Copyright Infringement Discussion Paper’, released by the Attorney General’s department on 30 July, which is aimed at stopping Australians from unlawfully downloading content from the internet.

‘Australia’s copyright industries employ 900,000 people and generate economic value of more than $90 billion, including $7 billion in exports,’ said the discussion paper, quoting a 2012 PriceWaterhouseCoopers report. ‘Digitisation means that these industries are particularly susceptible to harm from online copyright infringement with the potential to directly impact on the Australian economy and Australian jobs.’

The discussion paper said factors contributing to online copyright infringement in Australia include the ‘availability and affordability of lawful content, the ease with which consumers can access unlawful material and consumer awareness of legitimate services’. It said that action against piracy is not just a government responsibility but also ‘required from rights holders, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and ultimately consumers as well’.

The government is seeking input on three proposals in the discussion paper: extending ‘authorisation liability’, where an ISP takes reasonable steps to stop infringement; extending ‘injunctive relief’, to block infringing overseas websites that link to pirated material; and extending the ‘safe harbour’ scheme, which means that ISPs must block access or terminate accounts of repeat infringers or face fines.

The discussion paper addresses the High Court decision in the case of Roadshow Films v iiNet, which found that iiNet was not responsible for copyright infringement committed by its subscribers. The government’s position is that ISPs can take some reasonable steps to prevent copyright infringement.

Copyright Agency chief executive Murray St Leger said: ‘It’s well established that Australians overwhelmingly want creators to be paid for the work they distribute online. We want an internet that works for everyone—creators, consumers, tech providers and ISPs, and that means effective measures to reduce online piracy are paramount.’

‘Our creative communities are the drivers of innovation but they cannot continue to create nor innovate if they are not fairly rewarded. It’s copyright that creates the incentive for innovation. Our members, who are authors, journalists, photographers, publishers and artists, all want the same thing, to feel assured that they are paid for their labour and that they have the right to decide whether their work can be consumed or shared by others,’ said St Leger.

Minister for Communications Malcolm Turnbull told the Guardian that he didn’t believe ISPs should be forced to take action against repeat offenders. ‘I think it is reasonable to ask ISPs to alert people, so long as their costs are covered, and those notices will have an educative effect, but in terms of a sanction, that obviously should lie with the content owner, that is a reasonable approach, because they are suffering the loss,’ said Turnbull.

The discussion paper is open for submissions until 1 September and can be accessed here.



Category: Local news