Australia's peak internet group, the Internet Industry Association, has welcomed iiNet's proposal for a third party to enact copyright enforcement against alleged infringers, but said that its own planned code of conduct will still be valid as it will provide clarity for internet service providers (ISPs).
On Tuesday, iiNet released a whitepaper, suggesting that copyright infringers should be treated no different to drivers who speed on the roads, with demerit points and fines issued to infringers through an independent mediator funded by copyright holders.
Just prior to the release of iiNet's whitepaper, the IIA announced plans to develop a code of practice for the industry to deal with the growing unrest between ISPs and copyright holders.
The moves came after the 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 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.
IIA outgoing CEO Peter Coroneos welcomed iiNet's "fresh thinking" in the area.
"We think it's great to see a new approach beyond litigation that addresses some of the long-standing issues that we as an industry have identified, particularly around the role of ISPs versus the responsibilities of rights holders," Coroneos told ZDNet Australia. "This attempts to strike a fresh balance [and] we're looking forward to a more informed community debate on the issue."
Coroneos said that shifting the burden of costs of upholding copyright from ISPs was a vital part of the proposal.
"The iiNet paper makes a good point where it tries to identify the costs and benefits of copyright enforcement and they are foreshadowing that in society in general, it's the people who wish to enforce their rights who generally bear the costs of that enforcement," he said. "We've got to really get some understanding around that principle because it seems clearly to us that it doesn't seem sustainable that the intermediaries should bear the costs of enforcement."
Issues around due process and the presumption of innocence for users accused of copyright infringement were also important to examine, Coroneos said, and added that he expected other ISPs to chime in with their own suggestions for the model soon.
"It's fair to say that, in the wake of the most recent decision, the industry is very focused on the opportunity to make a positive contribution into the area."
Coroneos was quick to add that iiNet's proposed model didn't preclude an industry code of conduct, and said the IIA was committed to moving forward with its code to remove ambiguity left by the appeal judgement.
"This is really what might be seen as an adjunct to a code, but we wouldn't necessarily wait for consensus around their model before starting work on the code. We still think there is still some valuable work we can do to provide guidance to the industry in the wake of the appeal decision," he said.
"The IIA has been involved in this area since 1995. The announcement last week of the development as the code should be the signal that we intend to maintain a leadership role in this area."