OzEmail has urged the Federal Government to seriously consider the implications of proposed amendments to Australian copyright law which could be damaging to the ISP industry.
Under proposed changes, ISPs could be "exposed and liable to claims for damages if they fail to immediately close down sites that may contain material that infringes copyright," said Mary-Jane Salier, OzEmail's general counsel. ISPs such as OzEmail could face legal challenges from copyright owners and from organisations operating the sites.
The changes have been proposed to bring the Australian ISP industry in line with the US and to ensure US concerns over copyright infringement are met as part of the Free Trade Agreement which begins 1 January.
Salier continued: "OzEmail, just as the vast majority of other established ISPs, has an enforceable "acceptable use policy" that states clearly that subscribers may not violate copyright or other intellectual property rights."
OzEmail claimed that there was a likelihood ISPs would be quite literally forced into implementing policies of shutting down websites before they have the opportunity to validate copyright infringement claims. "This can have disastrous effects on many businesses that rely on the internet as a fundamental component of their operations," Salier said.
OzEmail was also concerned about the impact on ISPs as investigations into copyright claims would call for increased legal resources, adding cost to an industry operating on slim margins. "One protracted case could ruin many smaller ISPs," claimed Salier.
The Internet Industry Association (IIA) has also weighed in on the debate, saying that two new provisions to the bill "took away fundamental protections from the Australian internet industry and internet users.
These provisions are not merely minor and technical, as claimed by the Government -- they have the potential to completely undermine the safe harbour system contemplated by the Free Trade Agreement, IIA said.
"The new provisions increase the risk that Australian ISPs will be bombarded by inaccurate web-bot generated claims.
"This has proved to be a significant problem in the US, with one ISP reportedly receiving over 300,000 of these notices in one year", said Peter Coroneos, executive director at the IIA.
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