The federal government is seeking submissions on policies aimed at addressing online copyright infringement, such as torrenting TV shows and movies from websites like Pirate Bay.
The discussion paper, Online Copyright Infringement, initially leaked by Crikey! but now officially released by the government, has two main policy proposals. The first is to expand the authorisation liability of internet service providers (ISPs), which will make them more responsible for the infringing activity of their customers. The main goal of this policy it to reverse the decision of the high-profile iiNet case, which found that ISPs are not liable when consumers use their services to illegally download content such as movies or TV shows.
The second policy proposal is an anti-piracy internet filter, similar to those in use in Europe. Under this policy, rights holders could get a court order which would force all ISPs to block access to a particular website. The 'dominant purpose' of the website must to infringe copyright in order for it to be blocked.
IT price inquiry? What IT price inquiry?
The paper starts off by saying that everyone has a role to play in reducing online copyright infringement, and that "rights holders can ensure that content can be accessed easily and at a reasonable price by their customers".
But this issue is not addressed in the rest of the document, which doesn't include any proposals that would address the issues of access and price.
In fact, the discussion paper explicitly states that the government doesn't want to receive comment on the extensive work that the Parliament has already done on these issues through the Inquiry into IT Pricing.
The bipartisan report At what cost? IT pricing and the Australia tax, produced by the IT Pricing Inquiry in July 2013, provided a blueprint for addressing the price discrimination that sees Australians pay around 50% more for software and other digital products like games and music.
However, the discussion paper states that the government is "not seeking comment" on this report.
What about graduated response?
The discussion paper doesn't specifically mention a graduated response
(or 'three strikes') policy, which was flagged as a possibility by the Attorney-General George Brandis in a speech in February. However, expanding the authorisation liability of ISPs will leave the door open to such a scheme being introduced. But the good news for consumers is that throttling or terminating a user's internet access is explicitly ruled out.
Submissions can be made to the Attorney-General’s department by 1 September. CHOICE will be making its own submission to ensure that questions of access and price are included in the debate.
This article was updated on the 30th of July 2014 once the official discussion paper was released.