The organisation representing Australia's internet industry today revealed it would "immediately" start working on a new industry code of practice to detail internet service and hosting providers' rights and obligations when dealing with alleged copyright infringements by their users.
In late February, the Federal Court dismissed an appeal by the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT) which sought to overturn the judgement of a high-profile copyright infringement and internet content piracy case that it had brought against internet service provider (ISP) iiNet. AFACT had alleged that iiNet authorised its users to infringe copyright by not attempting to curb their downloading and uploading of pirated content. iiNet won the case and the appeal.
Onlookers now expect the case to be appealed to the High Court, but the Internet Industry Association today said it would take action on the issue in the meantime.
"Having closely reviewed the recent decision of the Full Federal Court, we've concluded it's both necessary and appropriate to develop a code of practice to give a range of internet intermediaries greater certainty around their legal rights and obligations," said outgoing IIA chief executive Peter Coroneos in a statement this morning.
Some aspects of the verdict have prompted industry observers to suggest that ISPs change their standard agreements with customers, to more thoroughly deal with those who illegally download copyrighted material.
"The iiNet case has provided us with welcome guidance on where responsibilities should begin and end, but falls short in defining reasonable steps intermediaries should take in responding to allegations of infringement by their users," added Coroneos. "The code will address this gap."
The IIA will also renew its lobbying efforts to have safe harbour provisions of the federal copyright legislation extended to cover other internet-focused companies beyond those providing telecommunications services.
"The 2005 (US/Australia Free Trade Agreement) amendments to the Act failed to deliver Australia-equivalent protections that exist under US law regarding who is eligible for safe harbour protection. Here, it is only carriage service providers such as ISPs who qualify," said Coroneos. "This has left search providers, social-network media, universities, auction sites, hosting and cloud services, corporate networks and others exposed to potential liability for the infringing acts of their users."
In response to the IIA's initiative, AFACT this afternoon issued a statement noting that "the IIA, on behalf of its members, has finally recognised that ISPs must play a role in preventing online copyright infringement".
"We said last week following the judgement of the Full Federal Court that its decision provided a roadmap for ISPs to deal with repeat infringers on their network," it added. "The IIA have agreed that the judgement offers guidance."
However, the IIA added in its statement that it wasn't only ISPs that should re-examine their approaches following the conclusion of the appeal, noting that new business models were needed to give Australians legal access to the content that they were pirating.
"Market failure remains a core contributor to the infringement problem," Coroneos said.
"If users have access to more and better content, when, where and in the form they choose to consume it, and at a realistic price, we're quite sure the motivation for infringement will decline. We certainly don't condone the infringement of copyright — but internet users need attractive, lawful alternatives if we are to see positive behavioural change. There's no reason why Australia shouldn't be leading the way here."