Hope for an industry-led scheme to combat online piracy appears to be fading after Perth-headquartered iiNet reaffirmed its opposition to exposing customers to a graduated response scheme.
While Telstra and the Communications Alliance cautiously lent their support to introducing a so-called “three-strikes” scheme, iiNet has revealed that it remains staunchly opposed to the notion in a late response to the Attorney-General’s discussion paper on copyright reform released in July.
The ISP argued that the schemes had ostensibly failed overseas and dismissed the value of implementing one in Australia.
It also took a veiled swipe at larger rivals:
“Some companies may be ready to absorb the costs of implementing an industry scheme or commercial arrangement whereby they send notices to customers. Some may already retain IP logs and send notices to their customers following allegations of copyright infringement. It would, however, be clearly inappropriate for the government to design legislation for a whole industry around such a small subset of more than a thousand companies’ systems and processes, and then force all these companies to retain information they don’t currently need or want to retain so they can police the internet, at no cost to those that will benefit”.
Telstra and the Communications Alliance also questioned the effectiveness of these enforcement schemes, but were prepared to take a more conciliatory approach with content owners.
In Telstra’s case, at least, that appeared to be a bid to avoid any alteration of copyright law that would allow content owners to successfully sue carriers for authorisation infringement.
“Notably none of the overseas schemes have made reference, or included amendments, to authorisation liability. Instead the approach taken overseas has been implementation of an enforcement mechanism, via an industry agreed scheme, or bespoke Government regulation. The approach advocated by Telstra in this submission reflects this.”
Communications Alliance also said it “remains willing to engage in good faith discussions with rights holders”.
The tone of iiNet's submission said otherwise. The ISP said the government was leaving ISPs with “Hobson’s choice” – a reference to the federal government’s frequent promises to legislate an industry scheme if it couldn’t be devised voluntarily.
“iiNet is also concerned that this approach leaves open the possibility that the legal liability for authorisation, not just for ISPs, but for all sectors in the community, could be subject to a standard set of regulations made without parliamentary oversight.”
The ISP also questioned some of the key assumptions in the Attorney-General’s discussion paper, including Australia’s reputation as having one of the highest rates of online piracy in the world and that its creative industries generate $90 billion in economic value each year.
Public submissions for the Attorney-General’s copyright review closed September 1.