Australian attorney-general tight lipped on copyright meetings

The Attorney-General's Department is refusing to confirm whether it has approached ISPs seeking a tougher method of dealing with online copyright infringement.

The Australian Attorney-General's Department has refused to confirm whether it is making a fresh push to tackle online copyright infringement.

The Australian reported on Monday that the department had sent letters to Australian telecommunications providers and content creators looking to restart failed roundtable discussions aimed at developing a method to crack down on online copyright infringement.

The report stated that the new government and Attorney-General George Brandis are looking at tougher measures, including potentially allowing film studios to seek injunctions to block websites with infringing material.

On Monday, ZDNet asked the department whether the report was accurate, and for details on who had been invited and whether there had been a policy change under the new government. In response on Tuesday afternoon, the department did not answer the questions directly, instead providing a statement from Brandis that the government would respond to copyright infringement as part of a report due next month.

"The Australian Law Reform Commission is currently conducting an inquiry into Copyright and the Digital Economy. The government will consider the recommendations of the final report when it is received in November 2013," Brandis said in the statement.

The response is almost identical to that provided to ZDNet by the former government just prior to the election, and remains in contradiction of the terms of reference for the Australian Law Reform Commission for the review of the Copyright Act. The terms of reference specifically direct the commission not to duplicate work being undertaken on unauthorised distribution of copyright materials using peer-to-peer networks.

ZDNet has asked for further comment from the department. A Freedom of Information request has also been made on the subject.

Prior to the election, Brandis told ZDNet that the Coalition did not have a specific policy on copyright infringement, but said that changes in technology should not dilute the rights of copyright holders.

"I don't think that a change of platform or format should as a matter of logic or principle have the effect of diluting or attenuating the rights of rights holders."

The last set of discussions stalled after iiNet pulled out of the meetings at the end of 2012 . iiNet's chief regulatory officer Steve Dalby told ZDNet yesterday that the company has yet to receive an invitation to the new meetings, but iiNet's position on the issue remains unchanged.

"Rights holders need to improve the availability of content before demanding that third parties protect their rights," Dalby said, citing a recent study that showed the three-strikes method of reducing copyright infringement has not been effective in other jurisdictions.

"It's also pretty clear that the heavy-handed approach demanded by the studios is not proving effective around the world."

The Australian Copyright Council confirmed to ZDNet that it has yet to receive a letter of invitation from the Attorney-General's Department.