The Federal Attorney-General's Department has distanced itself from a report saying that it was awaiting the outcome of the high-profile court case between iiNet and a number of movie and TV studios before promoting options to Attorney-General Robert McClelland to overhaul online copyright laws dealing with illegal file-sharing by Australians.
The internet service provider won the case in February, with Justice Cowdroy at the time finding that iiNet did not authorise copyright infringement carried out by its customers online. However, the coalition of movie and TV studios, under the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT), is appealing the decision.
Last week, telco industry newsletter Communications Day reported that the Federal Attorney-General's Department had issued a brief to the incoming government stating that examining the growth of online file sharing was a "priority", including legislative and non-legislative changes, but that the issue would "desirably" await the outcome of the iiNet trial.
The comments raise the possibility that AFACT may be successful in its attempt to lobby the Federal Government to overhaul the copyright regime.
However, in a separate statement issued late last week, the Attorney-General's Department noted that while it was working on the issue, the timing of any potential reforms was a matter for Attorney-General Robert McClelland to decide, rather than the department itself.
"The department is currently considering a number of copyright policy matters, including the issue of online copyright infringement, which includes illegal file sharing, on which it will provide advice to the Attorney-General," the department said.
The department is examining approaches that have been adopted overseas as part of its work developing options for the Attorney-General's consideration.
"The department's policy work is continuing while the iiNet litigation is on foot. The department is closely following the progress of that litigation."
Comment on the matter is also being sought from the office of Attorney-General Robert McClelland.
Despite its advice to the government published by Communications Day which stated that developing options to address the growth of online file sharing or copyright infringement was a "priority", the Attorney-General's Department appeared to downplay any need for legislative change in its statement last week.
"The government is conscious of the adverse impact illegal peer-to-peer file sharing has on the creative industries," the department said. "Australia's copyright law was extensively amended in 2006 to address many new technology issues and is up to date by international comparison."