Despite concerns that the talks will fall over, the Australian Government will hold another set of piracy meetings with internet service providers (ISPs), content owners and consumer groups on Thursday.
The secret meetings have been ongoing since September last year, held in the hopes of finding a way to stop users from downloading copyright-infringing material. These talks have previously excluded consumer groups, which the government said at the time were not ready to be brought in on the closed-door meetings. Telstra, Optus and iiNet, as well as rights-holder lobby groups the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT) and the Australian Content Industry Group, have been among the attendants of previous sessions. Several Freedom of Information (FOI) requests by journalists and interested parties were unable to reveal the minutes of the meetings, nor information on who has attended the meetings held so far.
Following iiNet's decisive High Court victory against AFACT, in which AFACT had sought to show that the ISP authorises its users' infringements, iiNet CEO Michael Malone said that he would like to walk away from those meetings. Sources at the time said that the negotiations were at a stalemate, with ISPs and content owners unable to see eye to eye on the best policy model to reduce online copyright infringement.
A source close to the meetings told ZDNet Australia yesterday that the negotiations will again be held over the next few weeks. The Attorney-General's Department confirmed yesterday that the next meeting will be held this Thursday.
"A roundtable meeting will be held in Sydney on Thursday, 7 June. All parties to the previous roundtable meetings are invited, including consumer representatives. The roundtable meeting will continue the useful discussions that have taken place so far."
The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) has confirmed that it will attend this meeting.
The news comes at the same time as the department responded to FOI requests filed by ZDNet Australia several months ago at the peak of public concern over the United States anti-piracy legislation known as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA). The documents received (PDF) highlight talking points provided to ministers and department secretary Roger Wilkins, stating that the Australian Government is not currently considering similar legislation to SOPA. This confirms public statements that were made at the time.
"It is the government's preference for industry [content owners and ISPs] to work together to develop a code to address this issue," the talking points state. "The government will look closely at the outcomes of industry discussions before considering other options."