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Hollywood blamed for Australian piracy-negotiation delays

The Communications Alliance has blamed intransigence from the copyright holders for why negotiations over a copyright-infringement determent scheme has yet to progress.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

Communications Alliance CEO John Stanton has said that Hollywood is reluctant to find a co-regulatory solution to deter copyright infringement, because it doesn't want to set a precedent of being reasonable.

For 18 months, the Attorney-General's Department has been holding roundtable negotiations between a number of content groups, internet service providers (ISPs), consumer groups, and the government, attempting to find an industry-based solution to copyright infringement.

The proposal put forth by ISPs would see a system implemented whereby users are notified when they are suspected of copyright infringement, and the cost for implementing such a system would be shared between industry and the content rights holders.

But rights holders have so far resisted any scheme where they would have to bear the cost, according to Stanton. He told the Communications Day Summit in Melbourne yesterday that they aren't interested in paying.

"That's something that is being staunchly resisted. Not because it really doesn't make sense in an Australian context; I think Hollywood doesn't want to create a global precedent by doing something reasonable in Australia that they feel might prejudice its interests elsewhere," he said.

"I think one of the things that is really acting as a barrier is the fact that Hollywood doesn't really have Australian national interest at heart."

He said that rights holders lost interest in finding an industry-based solution following their defeat in the High Court of Australia in their case against iiNet, which failed to prove that the ISP authorised its users' copyright infringement over BitTorrent by not passing on notices provided by the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT). AFACT has been vocal since the ruling that there needs to be a change in law from the government to address the issue.

But Stanton said that it is still in the rights holders' best interests to find a co-regulatory solution.

"An industry-based scheme would provide an effective deterrent to online copyright infringement. A problem that the rights holders say is costing them between AU$2.5 and AU$3 million a day in lost revenue in Australia alone," he said.

"There ought to be pretty strong incentive to fix this problem. If there was one issue that was costing my industry AU$3 million a day, you can bet your boots that Telstra, Optus, and VHA would be lining up daily at my door to set my pants on fire until I got it sorted."

AFACT managing director Neil Gane told ZDNet that contrary to Stanton's comments, AFACT was fully supporting of a system where the cost was shared between industry and rights holders.

"AFACT is being neither reluctant nor unreasonable — in fact the only global precedent of a co-regulatory solution is that agreed between ISPs and the film and music industry in the United States. This co-funded copyright alert system, fully supported by AFACT, is intended not to punish but to educate consumers about copyright and the many sources of legal content available , as well as to help them guard against the risks of illegal file sharing," he said.

Gane suggested that some of the members of the Comms Alliance had "seemingly rejected" this co-regulatory solution, not the rights holders.

Earlier this week, the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), which has also been attending the meetings, released its position statement on copyright issues. The policy states that any notice scheme should have the right to free and independent review, and there should be no policy to disconnect repeat infringers.

ACCAN said that it is putting forth the view at the meetings that the scheme must not collect data in a way that breaches consumer privacy, as well as arguing that notices should not contain false information, and should not contain an inducement to admit wrongdoing on behalf of the user.

ACCAN has also suggested that notices should not be sent out to customers who have downloaded TV shows or films that are not available in Australia through any other method. This is one of the most frequently cited reasons why consumers infringe on copyright, with much TV content being released or aired in Australia weeks or months behind when it is aired in the US.

Updated at 8.51 a.m. October 12: Added comment from AFACT.

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