Deadline looms for online copyright infringement code

Australian telcos and rights holders have a little over a month to come to an agreed code to crack down on online copyright infringement.

Time is fast running out for Australian internet service providers and rights holder groups to complete negotiations on a code that will see telcos warn customers alleged to have illicitly downloaded films and TV shows.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Attorney-General George Brandis have given the industry until April 8 to develop a code that will warn customers alleged to have infringed on copyright by downloading TV shows, films, and music through peer-to-peer services.

After a certain amount of notices, the scheme must allow rights holders to obtain the customer details of repeat infringers to then allow the copyright owners to take those customers to court.

Despite the tight deadline, Communications Alliance CEO John Stanton said that a lot of headway has been made.

"The negotiations are proceeding in good faith. Not without a few bumps that might be expected," he said on Thursday.

"Many things are already agreed."

Where the two sides disagree, however, is around the sanctions against repeat infringers, how the costs are shared between ISPs and rights holders, and which ISPs are covered by the scheme.

The larger ISPs have argued that the scheme should apply across all ISPs, to prevent repeat infringers from switching to ISPs not covered by the scheme. The government has said that the scheme should not be overly burdensome on smaller ISPs.

Although there are around 64 days left until the code will need to be finalised, Stanton said that there are only around 34 days left for the code to be ready.

"We're working pretty hard on that at the moment, and will be over the course of the next 60 days.

"Thirty of those will be taken up by statutory public comment period," he said.

"That leaves us with about 34 days to agree on a code with rights holders."

The government will also introduce legislation "sometime early this year" that will see rights holders able to go to court to force ISPs to block copyright-infringing websites such as the recently reborn The Pirate Bay.