Australia's draft piracy code comes down to the wire

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Australia's draft piracy code comes down to the wire

Telcos rush to meet looming deadline.

Australia's telecommunications industry body expects to slide in just ahead of a Government-mandated deadline to submit its revised version of a voluntary graduated warning scheme for copyright infringers.

In February this year, the Communications Alliance - the national internet service provider and telco representative body - unveiled a draft industry code for combating online copyright infringement.

The draft code came as a result of a Government directive issued to rights holders and ISPs to agree on a self-regulation scheme or have one enforced on them.

The version of the code published in February applies only to fixed-line connections. It involves a series of escalated warnings issued to those suspected of downloading content such as films and TV shows without paying.

A copyright information panel (CIP) would be created to oversee the scheme, the Comms Alliance said at the time, and the scheme would focus more on public education than sanctions.

However, to combat persistent infringers, once a final notice has been issued, a rights holder will be provided with "assistance" to sue infringers, the draft code stated.

Account holders who receive three infringement notices within a year will be able to have the validity of the allegations independently reviewed.

At the time the draft code was published, ISPs and rights holders had yet to reach agreement on how the scheme would be funded, and on how many notices would be sent out during its first 18 months of operation.

Comms Alliance CEO John Stanton today told iTnews a commercial agreement had been drafted and would underpin the final version of the code, which is due to be submitted to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) before midnight tomorrow.

He declined to provide details on how the commercial agreement would operate, and pointed to a similar scheme in the UK which did not publicly disclose commercial details.

"The point is that the Government has asked us to put in a code with certain objectives and outcomes, and that is what we are doing," he said.

The industry has previously tentatively estimated the cost of the scheme to be upwards of $30 per IP address - which has been disputed by rights holders.

"The main issue is the cost of processing infringement records and matching IP addresses, preparing and sending notices to customers, keeping records, handling front of house phone enquiries, all of those costs,” Stanton told iTnews.

“ISPs have always held the view that reasonable costs should be reimbursed by rights holders, because they will benefit from the economic upswing from a reduction in piracy.”

The Comms Alliance received 370 public comments to the first version of the code, Stanton said, which had been taken into consideration while drafting the final version.

The revised code is now before the working group that created it - filled with members from Telstra, Optus, iiNet, M2, Verizon and others - which will vote on the document before lunchtime today.

If rubberstamped, the new version of the code will be sent to the Comms Alliance's board for approval. The document will need to be ticked off and published by the board before it can go to the ACMA, Stanton said.

Rights holders had not been asked to formally approve the new version, Stanton said, but given the "cooperative" spirit in which the draft code was submitted, he 'hoped they will be happy with it'.

Judgement day for iiNet v DBC LLC

The deadline for submission to ACMA tomorrow is just one day after iiNet and the owner of the film Dallas Buyers Club will learn the fate of their court battle around preliminary discovery.

Dallas Buyers Club LLC took iiNet to court in an effort to force the ISP to hand over customer details so DBC could contact alleged copyright infringers.

iiNet resisted the effort over fears the company would send threatening letters to the ISP's users demanding payment, as DBC had done in the US.

The judgment will be handed down in a Sydney court this afternoon.

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