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BBC warns of Australians avoiding piracy code

BBC Worldwide has said that the proposed copyright infringement code is 'ill equipped' to handle Australians masking their IP address to avoid detection while illicitly downloading TV shows or films.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

Copyright holders have argued that there are many gaps in the draft online copyright infringement code that will limit its success in reducing the number of Australians illicitly downloading TV shows, films, and music.

The draft code, developed by internet service providers, rights holders, and consumer groups, would see Australians get three chances to curb their infringing habits, or face having their customer details handed over to a copyright owner by court order.

It will see a rights holder send out reports identifying IP addresses that are alleged to have infringed on copyright -- such as those using peer-to-peer services to download the latest TV show or film. The ISPs will then try to match the IP addresses to the account holders at the time of the alleged infringement, and pass on education notices or warnings.

One potential issue with this process, and one that has continually been pointed out in the development of the code, is that Australians using virtual private network (VPN) services can effectively mask their IP address, meaning that it is much harder to match up an IP address against a specific account holder.

In its response (PDF) to the code, BBC Worldwide, the company behind shows including Top Gear and Doctor Who, said that this is a concern.

"The code is ill equipped to deal with consumers who spoof or mask their IP addresses to avoid detection, behaviour that we believe will increase as a result of an introduction of a notice scheme," the BBC said.

The Canadian legislation reportedly seeks to overcome this issue by requiring locally based VPN operators to keep logs of their subscribers' IP addresses. This has led to some VPN operators threatening to leave Canada.

The Communications Law Centre at the University of Technology, Sydney, said (PDF) that the code should be technology neutral. As it currently only applies to fixed-line services, it should also ensure that it applies to mobile services, too.

The Australasian Music Publishers Association (PDF) argued that the code should force ISPs to monitor and detect their customers' online copyright infringement, and filter out infringing sites.

The Australian government is expected to introduce legislation this week that will force ISPs to block certain infringing websites under court order.

Optus (PDF) said it supports the code not including mobile services, and said the code should also waive the AU$25 fee for consumers to challenge notices they receive. This position was also backed by the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN).

"This AU$25 fee is a fine by stealth, and contravenes the ministerial letter which outlined cost should be fairly apportioned between internet service providers and rights holders only," ACCAN said (PDF).

Many submissions noted that the working group putting together the code has yet to determine how costs for the system should be shared. BBC argued that ISPs should wear their own costs, but that the costs for setting up education websites and other joint schemes should be shared equally between ISPs and rights holders.

Screen Producers Australia said (PDF) that the costs should not be onerous on producers, as many are "not well placed to bear additional cost burdens".

The public comment period closed on Monday. The deadline for the code to be registered is April 8, 2015.

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