ISPs, rights holders commission expert on piracy code costs: Comms Alliance

Australian telco industry group, Communications Alliance, has revealed that rights holders and ISPs are working together to determine the probable costs imposed by the piracy code.

Communications Alliance has revealed that internet service providers (ISPs) and rights holders have collaborated to commission an "independent expert" to determine the costs likely to be shouldered by ISPs sending out infringement notices to customers in compliance with the recently lodged piracy code.

In April, a piracy code written in collaboration by ISPs, rights holders, and the Communications Alliance was submitted to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) in accordance with the deadline given by Attorney-General George Brandis and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Under the code, rights holders will send reports to ISPs identifying IP addresses that have allegedly infringed on copyright, such as through the use of peer-to-peer services to download TV shows or films. The ISPs must then match IP addresses with account holders, and send those customers infringement notices. Customers can be warned three times over a 12-month period, after which the ISP involved must make a user's details obtainable through the Federal Court.

Questions remain, however, as to the costs imposed by instituting this scheme, and whether the 70 ISPs involved in the system will receive any compensation for being required to enforce copyright on behalf of rights holders.

With cost-sharing negotiations still ongoing, Communications Alliance CEO John Stanton revealed on Wednesday that ISPs and rights holders have commissioned an independent expert to examine the costs that could be incurred by ISPs in processing and sending out such infringement notices.

The telco industry group said questions of cost are particularly pertinent after research (PDF) released last month by the Department of Communications revealed that only 21 percent of respondents said an infringement notice would prevent them from consuming copyrighted content for free.

Respondents to the survey said the primary factors that would stop them from infringing in the future are a decrease in the cost of legal content, the availability of legal content, and the simultaneous release of content in Australia alongside the rest of the world.

"These results suggest that while there is a role for a copyright notice scheme code in Australia to assist in fighting infringement, more work needs to be done to make legal content more affordable and more available, to combat the root causes of infringing activity," Stanton said on Wednesday.

"The widespread pattern of online infringement in Australia, indicated by the research, underlines the fact that rights holders -- as indicated by the government -- should be ready to pay the majority of the costs of operating a copyright notice scheme, given the enormous financial upside that will flow to rights holders from changing the behaviour of online infringers."

The research, released by the Australian Department of Communications, also revealed that users who consume paid content in addition to downloading copyright-infringing content actually spend more than users who consume only non-infringing content.

"Rights holders' most powerful tool to combat online copyright infringement is making content accessible, timely, and affordable to consumers," Turnbull said.

In an interview with Radio National on Wednesday, Turnbull said he regarded the selling of copyright on a geographical basis to be on its last legs.

"This is territorial copyright, it's very easy to get around, of course, using a VPN, and people do it all the time," the minister said.

"My own view is that territorial copyright is pretty much finished in practical terms.

"It is just getting harder and harder, and close to impossible, to enforce."

The issue of costs has been argued over for more than a year, with ISPs long stating that they would not be wiling to bear the burden of enforcing copyright on behalf of rights holders.

Last month, parliament passed legislation giving rights holders the power to obtain court orders to block overseas websites that are determined to contain copyright-infringing material, or facilitate access to copyright-infringing material.

This legislation similarly does not specify whether ISPs will be forced to shoulder the costs for blocking websites.