Australian government considers graduated response to piracy

Australian government considers graduated response to piracy

Summary: The Attorney-General's Department is actively considering a graduated response scheme to crack down on online copyright infringement, officials have confirmed.


The Attorney-General's Department has revealed the government is actively investigating a number of options to crack down on online copyright infringement, including the controversial graduated response scheme used in other countries.

Following the iiNet High Court victory against the consortium of film studios, formerly known as the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft in 2012, most Australian internet service providers have been reluctant to negotiate with rights holders and the government over a voluntary system to crack down on Australian customers infringing on copyright by sharing films and TV shows over programs such as BitTorrent.

Previous negotiations held up until 2012 failed because the rights holders have been unwilling to agree to pay the costs of implementing such a system, according to the ISPs. The ISPs have said that the system asks ISPs to be "copyright cops", when the content owners do not make their content available in a timely and affordable manner in Australia.

In February, Attorney-General George Brandis delivered an ultimatum to ISPs to develop a voluntary system, or expect one to be legislated for them.

Yesterday, Brandis claimed he set out prior to the election the government's views on copyright, however, the only time he mentioned it prior to the election date was when asked by ZDNet.

"The government is of the view that there does need to be reform to copyright. One of the issues ... is piracy. Unlike the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Canada, the United States, France and many other comparable countries, Australia lacks any effective protection against online piracy," he said.

"Australia, I'm sorry to say, is the worst offender anywhere in the world when it comes to piracy and I'm very concerned that the legitimate rights and interests of content creators are being compromised by that activity.

"We want to do something about that."

The Attorney-General has been meeting with a number of lobby groups on the issue of copyright since the election, and ZDNet understands that Neil Gane, the representative of AFACT, now the Australian Screen Association, has met with the department and the Attorney-General on a number of occasions. Emails obtained by ZDNet under Freedom of Information also highlight Gane's lobbying attempts to the department since the election.

When asked by Greens communications spokesperson Scott Ludlam whether he had met with consumer groups, such as Choice, to discuss the public interest factors in cracking down on copyright infringement, Brandis said the public interest was in protecting copyright.

"There is a very strong public interest in the protection of private property, and that includes the protection of intellectual property," he said.

The government this year cut AU$38 million from Screen Australia over the next four years in this year's budget, a move that will see the organisation support the creation of fewer Australian films and TV shows.

Brandis couldn't say whether he or the department had met with consumer groups since the election, but said he had met 'numberless' stakeholders on the issue over the years.

The Attorney-General's Department officials said there was a group of four people within the Civil Law Division working on copyright as an internal working group.

When asked whether the department was looking at replicating the so-called graduated response schemes used in countries like New Zealand, and the United States that see education notices sent to customers up as many as three times before penalties begin to apply, Andrew Walter Assistant Secretary for the Attorney-General's Department confirmed it was on the table.

"Yes, that's one option," he said.

Although Brandis still favours a voluntary industry-led system, he said that there had been little interest from most ISPs since the iiNet High Court case to come to the table on negotiations.

"A lot of the pressure on the ISPs to come to the table went away because the ISPs had a very comprehensive victory in the iiNet case," he said.

"Since the iiNet judgment came down, there has been less willingness from some ISPs to come to the table."

He said that not all ISPs were that way, and singled out Telstra — a 50 percent owner of pay television company Foxtel —as one company willing to negotiate.

"Only earlier in the month I had a very long conversation with [Telstra CEO David] Thodey and [Telstra's director of government relations James] Shaw. If I may say so publicly, I think Telstra's contribution to this issue, and their willingness to work to find a solution to the piracy issue — which is really unaddressed in Australia — has been very commendable."

Brandis said it was an area being "actively pursued" by the government at the moment.

It comes as the US Center for Copyright Information, which manages the Copyright Alert System in the US, put out its first report into the implementation of its graduated response system.

According to the report, in the 10 months since the launch of the system, 1.3 million alerts have been sent out, with 265 challenges to those alerts, with no false positives found. Approximately 70 percent of the alerts sent were in the first education stage, with less than 3 percent of the alerts in the final mitigation stage.

The report said there were 47 successful challenges to the alerts, but these were all based on unauthorised use of the accounts held by the customer.

Topics: Piracy, Government, Government AU, Australia


Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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  • Happy to pay..

    Unfortunately current legal methods for watching these in Australia are equivalent to the horse & cart when everyone else is driving around in sport cars.

    They'd be better of working with the copyright holders to provide a legal service on par with downloading, before prosecuting everyone who dont have anywhere to go.
  • Frenz9 is 100% correct.

    "Australia, I'm sorry to say, is the worst offender anywhere in the world when it comes to piracy and I'm very concerned that the legitimate rights and interests of content creators are being compromised by that activity.

    "We want to do something about that."

    There are two problems in Australia - that are really only one.

    1> The fibre NBN has been canned. This means the minimum 4-5Mbps required for a SINGLE IPTV stream is hard to reach for a ridiculous amount of people. This means there's relatively low incentive for LEGAL means to remunerate any investment in IPTV services for Australia. There will be no Netflix type service because they cannot deliver the content to the customer reliably. This ALSO means no competition, which brings me to my next point.

    2> The ONLY way to receive reliable Pay-TV shows or on-demand movies is Foxtel. That's it. This means that, as they have done in the past and present, only one provider is buying up exclusives such as Game of Thrones, unfortunately now the V8 Supercar series, what they are doing to Rugby League and AFL, and what they did in the past with the NBL. With subscriptions starting at $70 per month to get Game of Thrones, it would cost me $84 per episode if I just wanted Game of Thrones for example. Again no LEGAL way to get these things at a normal sort of price (up to $6-$7 per episode as other countries have).

    The reason I say the two problems are really one, is because of the huge interest Telstra and News Corp in the above two points. Also that The Abbott government, with Mr Turnbull at the comms helm are continually aiding these corporations become richer and greedier, instead of breaking down barriers to entry for real competition in this space. Ex Telstra board members now running NBNCo. Dodgy deals still going on between Bigpond and Telstra Wholesale enforcing the monopoly they are not supposed to have any more. Contributions by News Corp into the right election coffers. I might sound like someone with a tin hat, but as I've been following the NBN, structural separations of Telstra, and the unfortunate incident of Malcolm Turnbull becoming our communications minister, if you do the same research, the same conclusions must be drawn. The government cares more about the corporations billions than their constituents. Not that that is any surprise mind you it has been going on for years.

    Look, if somebody pirates movies and shows when LEGAL, REASONABLY PRICES and DRM free options exist, ABSOLUTELY NO EXCUSE. By all means work on some sort of punishment system.

    But targeting these people and putting resources into this AS THING ARE is disgusting. Give us a fair Australia with media delivered reliably by anyone wishing to do so, not just the Telstra/Foxtel juggernaut so that we may purchase our media legally and at competitive prices (you need competition to get competitive prices). Wake up idiots! Who voted these guys in? :)

    The Australian Government is still a joke.
    • theres actually at least 3 legal ways

      "Look, if somebody pirates movies and shows when LEGAL, REASONABLY PRICES and DRM free options exist, ABSOLUTELY NO EXCUSE. By all means work on some sort of punishment system"

      Not sure on the DRM part, but the rest - Xbox Video, Quickflix and iTunes all do it for around the $3-$4 per episode mark and offer either streaming or download to watch and in both SD and HD... Soooo that would take care of the legal and reasonable prices part.
      • Go on then

        Download the latest episode of Game of Thrones on one of these services you CAN'T that is the point you muppet you can NOT download content.

        Secondly our rights as consumers are being impeded by geo-blocking if I want to buy any product other than Television, Movies and software I am free to shop in the USA or the UK but no for this content I am BLOCKED from my rights as a consumer and forced to pay 100% - 1000% more for products which are entirely digital and have NO STAFF in this country and pay NO TAXES in this country.

        The fact that Senator Brandis has his knickers in a knot about the rights of overseas companies who provide no income to the economy over Australian consumers rights to fair reasonable and nondiscriminatory access to a products is a MASSIVE concern.
      • The LNP Trolls are Busy Today.

        The ADSL 2 in this area can't even manage to reliably stream a short Utube clip & fails completely in wet weather so forget Xbox Video, Quickflix and iTunes.
        Foxtel locks up the most popular shows, demands a useless subsciption for it's basic ad riddled crap then charges a premium on top for access to those shows.
        This present mob is rotten to the core with backroom deals with Murdoch, Foxtel & Telstra designed to fleece the public & waste Billions to cripple the NBN in order to deter overseas competitors.
        The FOXtel is well & truely in charge of the henhouse.
  • well...

    ... some of us are sorry to say that an AG who accepts taxpayer funds to attend fascist shock jock weddings, and who is happy to lie down with the media carpetbagger's lobbyists and the hounds of the US TPP while ignoring all organisations representing his VOTERS should just stfu and go back to his hack country practice and leave the grown ups to work out the pathways to new media mores...
  • Mr Brandis, you Your are elected to serve the interests of Australians.

    Personally i do not care if Australia is home to the biggest copyright thieves in the world or not. You are the responsible minister for NBN. NBN have announced no video streaming on their satellites claiming not enough bandwidth. Just exactly what are you doing to ensure Australians have the infrastructure to access the legal content in the format supplied by the owners? The answer Mr Brandis is nothing. What are you doing to protect the questionable rights of a collection of American conglomerates. That is right bending over backwards. Where is the parallel import rules? Why are your guaranteeing rights holder can grant rights on a geographical basis in an non geographical environment. The problem is hot those busy with civil disobedience, it is the idiots that are supporting a broken right system.

    Please sir hand in your baton. You are a shambling disgrace as a Minister and as a Government.
    • actually...

      Turnbull is the minister for the No Broadband Network, and the satellite issue is just another of labors screw ups in the poor design they put together... Other than that feel free to vent at the brandis who is the AG and so responsible for legal matters.
  • let the whinging continue

    Given that anyone who has an ADSL 2 connection as a minimum has at least 4 options for legally acquiring content via on demand streaming and said content runs smoothly (if needs be run it in SD instead of HD if the adsl connection is particularly bad, or download to watch) there really is no argument for piracy apart from a whole bunch of people just being freeloaders

    The NBN isn't going to encourage people to start legally acquiring stuff, it will just let them illegally acquire stuff quicker.

    I'm on an ADSL 2 connection 400kms from the nearest capital city in a town of less than 150 people and speedtest reports connection speed of 6.5Mbps - I quite comfortably use a mixture of Xbox Video, Quickflix and Foxtel Play for all my viewing, its all streamed and runs fine. The foxtel is 50 pm for a bunch of channels but I mainly got it for Nascar from the US, the xbox charges 2.99 per episode for sd and 3.99 for hd and quickflix is basically the same. The other option people have is iTunes as well which a few friends in a capital city on ADSL2 connections use for their tv shows and movies.

    So to say Australians have 1 option (foxtel) is a lie. To say the majority of people don't have the connection speeds is also a lie - the majority of people can get at least adsl2. To say that the nbn will help stop piracy is also a lie. Xbox, Quickflix and iTunes all allow for download to watch, so even if the argument is that the connection is to slow to stream so people illegally download - sorry but they could just as easily legally download from any of those services.
    • You are Lying

      Go on download Season 4 episode 1 of GoT to prove me wrong

      What is that you can't What is that you need Foxtel
    • Mate get off

      Do NOT call me a liar. You have not researched this so you really need to pipe down.

      I operate a small business support company in Oakford, 20 minutes south of Perth. In Oakford, if you are lucky, you can get 6Mbps or so on ADSL1. HOWEVER, most of the businesses I visit have a maximum speed of about 1.2Mbps. NO JOKE. Even older but heavily populated places like Thornlie, Langford, even certain parts of South Perth, can barely make 1Mbps. I'm over the moon for you that you can get steady 6Mbps, so can I pretty much, but you do NOT represent all of Australia so by all means, if you think I'm a liar, jump on a plane and come have a beer with me, I'll take you to every one of my 120+ customers and show you what speeds we're REALLY getting out of this old Telstra copper.

      The NBN will enable content providers to deliver media at practically NO COST to them. Foxtel now pays or makes you pay to have an installer put up a dish and connect it all to your premises. What you think that came free? Trust me you've paid for it directly or indirectly. And are possibly still paying for it. The reason there's no competition to Foxtel is the massive capital investment that would now have to go into delivering content to your door is phenomenal. Putting up a Satellite or leasing bandwidth off an existing satellite, other backbone considerations, the physical installation at the client's place. The list goes on. If EVERYBODY had 25Mbps, another provider simply has to build streaming servers and set up a web page with billing. Done.

      You, sir, obviously can't see past your nose if you can't see ALL the things the FttP NBN would bring. As per all the media, you assume it just means faster bittorrent. Hmm. I wonder who runs the media that brainwashes you into thinking that. (I'll give you a moment to think about that one).

      For things such as Game of Thrones and V8 Supercars next year, Australians DO only have one option, and it's a sucky one at that. Why call me a liar? I specifically mentioned Game of Thrones in my original post. Did you not read any of that?

      Try and download/stream Game of Thrones on XBox video or Quickflix. Go on. I'll wait.

      Please mate. I have no problem arguing a case, and I believe everyone deserves their opinion always, but do NOT call me a liar when I haven't told a single untruth.
      • got etc

        I haven't watched got since season 2, so I haven't tried to download it, but shows like house of cards, person of interest and walking dead are shows that I do stream (could download but why bother when I can just stream them on demand).

        And yes I will take back the lie comment previously made - and instead just say that your wrong. To say the majority of users in Australia don't have ADSL2 is wrong, and a majority also have semi-decent speeds - but yes there are still shall we call them 'deadspots' such as the area your spoke of - I know of a couple areas in Melbourne to, luckily in those areas HFC was available so people just jumped on that and got way quicker speeds. And you can say that the NBN would fix the issue - but that is also to say that your willing to wait up to 8 years to get your problem fixed - me I'd be all over the ISP and threatening to go to the competitors and the ombudsman until the issue was fixed (and maybe you have tried that - but the way these companies win is by us giving up and not continually fighting and demanding refunds etc).

        The speeds do sound sucky in your area, in this area I had tested a bigpond adsl2 connection a few years back at it was even higher at 11.5Mbps but since the NBN rollout started closer to the capital and on the links between here and there the speed has slowed to 6.5Mbps.

        Regarding GoT - if its not available lodge a request with the providers... They know its popular now, and if they got enough pressure maybe they'd do something about it.

        Regarding the speeds - even google in demonstrating its gigabit networks admitted they have no idea what anyone would need the speed for. Also if the government had just legislated that when a provider sells a product they had to guarantee a minimum speed as part of the package then the isps would have gotten their act together sooner. Also there were a couple of test sites for vdsl2 in Perth back before labor killed them off for the nbn - so if it wasn't for labor there would be big chunks of Perth already getting vdsl2 now.

        There were so many different options to get a better network in Australia but labor just chose to go down the "we control everything" model as they always do. For example - they could have just fronted a pool of money as subsidization money and offered a payment per dwelling connected and made it open season for the isps to do it. Kinda like the hfc cable rollout in the 90s that wired up Optus and foxtel to massive numbers of people in a reasonably quick time frame.

        Back to piracy - yep faster connections will just result in faster piracy. I even know of a couple of people who even paid the cost to have a faster connection in their area now just so they could torrent faster.

        As for the geo-blocking, it does suck and something should be done about changing the copyright laws so that it could be removed.

        And I know foxtel recoups the cost of the box etc as part of their service - I used to be a foxtel customer. I ditched 'normal' foxtel a while back and just have Foxtel Play which is the internet based streaming service - I'm paying like half of what I was before and still getting everything I wanted.

        The final thing is - if telstra/optus/vodafone could be made offer better deals on mobile broadband that would be a viable alternative at the moment. NextG is still quicker than ADSL2 and LTE is upwards of 5-10 times quicker (that's based on doing comparative tests using the same device on both adsl and mobile connections in the same area).
        • You Realise

          That house of cards was delayed because of foxtel right it was all released in the USA at one time on netflix the fact that you are willing to be shafted and pay to be shafted is disturbing.

          Foxtel play's quality is utter crap Netflix does 4K over 24Mbps Foxtel gets 480p over 10Mbps it is shockingly bad
  • If my Monthly ISP fees go up ...

    ... to pay for what is obviously a flaw in the content industries business model, that they don't want to pay to fix, and that they expect third parties to fix for them - then I will consider this yet another 'great new tax' from the Australian government, and further proof that the government doesn't represent my interests, it only represents the interests of big corporate sponsors.

    Your call, George.
    Frank O'Connor
    • Agreed.

      I'm on ADSL 2+ and I can't stream the legal content on ABC's iview without it being stutter-vision.

      I accept no liability for someone downloading across my wi-fi (yes, it has a password), and my IAP (after all they only provide ACCESS not SERVICE) is equally free of liability. If I'm forced to pay $more for less because of corporate interests that are still making a profit even if 50% of Australians are downloading GoT (still haven't seen an episode) then we, as a people, need to bring the corporations back into line.

      "I will recognise a corporation as an ENTITY, when the u.s. state of Texas executes one." -- Unknown.