The Australian arm of the Pirate Party yesterday opened fire on the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT), accusing the group of "strong-arm tactics" and "extortion" in its renewed advances to local internet service providers (ISPs) over the past few weeks on the issue of online copyright infringement through file-sharing services such as BitTorrent.
AFACT has been engaged in a long-running battle with ISPs in an effort to get them to address piracy through their networks, with the most high-profile skirmish being its lawsuit against iiNet, which is believed to be headed for the High Court. iiNet has won several legal rounds against AFACT in the case, but, in the latest judgment, onlookers commented that a mechanism may have opened up for AFACT to be able to request that ISPs disconnect those illegally sharing files online, if copyright infringement notices were issued in the correct manner.
In a recent letter to ISPs, AFACT requested that talks be opened on file sharing, noting that it would proceed with an unspecified action if it did not hear from the ISP within a week. However, the Pirate Party, which broadly advocates intellectual property legislative change and digital rights within Australia, isn't impressed with AFACT's move.
"These veiled threats are nothing more than intimidation tactics that once again clearly display the extent that Big Media will go to in their failing attempts to protect their flawed business models. Extortion is a new low even for AFACT," said Pirate Party Australia acting secretary Brendan Molloy in a statement issued by the party yesterday.
"It is completely inappropriate to have closed-room discussions even before the iiNet court case has concluded, and even more inappropriate to make veiled threats to begin yet another court case for not attending these 'voluntary talks'."
Countries such as New Zealand and the US are implementing graduated response mechanisms to online copyright infringement by internet users, which sees a number of warnings or "strikes" given before action is taken. However, Molloy said that such a scheme would not be implemented in Australia "without a fight".
"Pirate Party Australia condemns this blatant example of legal strong-arm tactics, a reflection of the corruption and desperation at the heart of an industry that is refusing to embrace reality," the party's statement said. "ISPs have no obligations to take any action over unproven allegations of infringement by AFACT."
"AFACT itself is known for sending legal threats based on nothing more than a recorded IP address. This practice blatantly ignores the realities of the average household, where the internet connection is shared by parents, children, families and friends. Given the prevalence of home offices and work-at-home parents, if AFACT's scheme were to be implemented, families could see their livelihood taken away when any person commits an act of copyright infringement using their home connection, proven or otherwise."
The Pirate Party did appear to have made a factual mistake in its statement; incorrectly stating that AFACT's letter had detailed a seven-day response time for customers to respond to online infringement notices send to them through ISPs. In fact, the seven-day response time referred to the period in which ISPs had to respond to AFACT, and initiate discussions with the organisation on a graduated response scheme.
"We can't respond to extreme views based on misunderstanding and incorrect facts from the Pirate Party," AFACT responded in a statement.