iiNet calls on consumer fight back to piracy plans

iiNet has urged users to rise up and complain to Attorney-General George Brandis and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull over plans to crack down on online copyright infringement.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

iiNet has urged its customers to lobby the Australian government over proposals to implement a new scheme to crack down on online copyright infringement.

The ISP knows, more than almost any other company in Australia, the persistence of what iiNet's chief regulatory officer Steve Dalby calls the Hollywood Studios. The lobby group of film studios, known then as the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft, took iiNet to court in 2008 alleging that it had authorised its users infringement by not acting on notices sent by the studios about users' infringement.

iiNet won at every step of the case, ultimately defeating AFACT in the High Court in 2012. Since then, discussions between the government, rights holders, and ISPs have been stalled, until February this year, when Attorney-General George Brandis said he would look to introduce a mandatory online copyright infringement crackdown scheme if the industry couldn't come up with a voluntary regime.

ZDNet revealed last week that in discussions between the Communications Department and the Attorney-General's Department, the government is most likely looking to pursue a "graduated response" scheme that involves sending out infringement/education notices to users in the first instance, followed by tougher responses for repeat infringements. In other parts of the world where such schemes operate, it can involve fines, bandwidth throttling, or disconnection.

Emails between AFACT, now the Australian Screen Association, and the Attorney-General's Department shows that the lobby group is still working hard to get its preferred scheme for copyright infringement up and running, which would include notification and "injunctive relief".

The Communications Department appears to have a more pragmatic view of the issue, highlighting that any scheme will also need to ensure that there is access to legitimate content, and fair pricing for that content.

In a blog post today, Dalby said that the fundamental difference between iiNet's position and that of the rights holders is that iiNet wants to address the cause, not just the symptom.

"The Hollywood Studios have been relentlessly lobbying the Australian Government on a range of heavy-handed solutions, from a 'three strikes' proposal, through to website filtering — none of which take consumers' interests into account," he said.

"The studios wont pay for this scheme, instead they expect ISPs to pay for the infringement notice process, resulting in increased charges for our customers, even those who subscribe to legal sources of content."

He said ISPs do not profit from copyright infringement because while the average iiNet customer uses 20 percent of their monthly download quota, those who use BitTorrent use close to 100 percent, ultimately costing iiNet more to provide the service.

Dalby said that customers who are concerned about the proposals should contact Brandis and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, as well Shadow Communications Minister Jason Clare, and Greens communications spokesperson Scott Ludlam.

"We’re still holding out hope that the Australian Government, the Hollywood Studios and other rights holders will deliver a positive solution to the ongoing issue of piracy," Dalby said.

"Until that time, we'll continue to push for a better future for Australian content users, one removed from the constraints being discussed in Canberra."

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