While some sections of the telco industry have quietly welcomed iiNet's proposal for a third-party mediator to enforce copyright for internet users, others are waiting to weigh in — but the proposal has been blasted by Exetel.
Last week iiNet released a whitepaper suggesting that copyright infringers should be treated no differently to drivers who speed on the roads, with demerit points and fines issued to infringers through an independent mediator funded by copyright holders.
The release came shortly after the internet service provider (ISP) won another round in the Federal Court against the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT). AFACT had taken iiNet to court seeking a ruling that iiNet had authorised its users to infringe copyright by failing to act on infringement notices provided by the federation. iiNet won the case and an appeal; however, experts have said that the appeal judgement laid out a framework for AFACT to compel ISPs to act on infringement notices in the future.
The Communications Alliance's CEO John Stanton welcomed iiNet's proposal and said it "warranted further study".
"Whatever the solution, we believe it will be more robust and sustainable if it flows from a shared desire from content owners and ISPs to agree arrangements that benefit consumers and all sides of the industry," he said in a statement.
Stanton said that the organisation and a number of other ISPs have been meeting with content owners in recent weeks to look at whether an industry-led solution can be found.
"We want to continue that dialogue and broaden the discussion to include other stakeholders to help address copyright concerns and foster greater access for Australian consumers to legitimate and commercially available online content," he said.
Telecommunications giant Telstra directed ZDNet Australia to the Communications Alliance statement, while Optus said the company would like to review the proposal before making a comment, but welcomed proposals that addressed the issue "in a collaborative way".
Internode's general manager of regulatory and corporate affairs, John Lindsay, told ZDNet Australia that the telco "supports the model that iiNet is proposing and will continue to work with rights-holders to promote legal content like FetchTV, iTunes and ABC iView to its subscribers".
However, Exetel's outspoken managing director John Linton had a less than favourable view of the proposal.
"Why would anyone think a 'mediator' has any ability to interpret law? Worse, why would anyone think that a 'mediator' would put themselves in the position of having to read tens of thousands of copyright notices each day and then put themselves in a position that exposes them to legal redress? Can you think of anyone who would be so ludicrously stupid?" Linton told ZDNet Australia.
Linton said that iiNet knew its customers were committing copyright infringement and, thanks to the judgement in the appeal, stated that iiNet can now be compelled to act on notices.
"What iiNet don't want to do is cut off customers who illegally download — a huge percentage of their customers — because doing that would send them broke," he added. "Making childishly absurd suggestions such as iiNet has done [is] just a pathetic attempt to 'buy' more time before they really have to stop allowing their customers to steal other people's property as their standard process of making money."
The Internet Industry Association recently announced plans to develop its own set of guidelines for ISPs to deal with copyright enforcement issues, seeking to address growing unrest between ISPs and copyright holders.
Despite repeated requests for comment since the iiNet announcement, AFACT has yet to respond to the proposal.
AFACT has until Thursday to seek leave to appeal the latest Federal Court ruling to the High Court of Australia.