ISPs agree to graduated warnings for pirates

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ISPs agree to graduated warnings for pirates

Draft copyright infringement code published.

Australian internet service providers have agreed to implement a graduated warning scheme for users engaged in online copyright infringement, as part of a draft industry code issued today.

The Communications Alliance, the ISP representative body, today unveiled the draft code in order to meet the Government's April deadline for an agreed industry plan for self-regulation.

The federal government late last year warned ISPs and rights holders that it would enforce its own code for tackling online copyright infringement if the industry could not agree on one.

The ISP body published a draft version of the code today [pdf]. It will apply only to fixed-line connections, and will see a series of escalated warnings issued to those suspected of downloading content such as films and TV shows without paying.

But the ISPs and rights holders are yet reach agreement on who will fund the scheme - the main reason similar talks broke down in 2012 - as well as how many notices will be sent during the first 18 months of the code's operation.

Comms Alliance CEO John Stanton admitted it had been "very difficult in the past" to reach agreement on a notice scheme, but said both sides had brought a "co-operative spirit and energy" to this latest effort.

"Much work remains, but publication of a draft code is an important milestone toward greater protection for the legitimate rights of the creative industries," he said in a statement.

A copyright information panel (CIP) would be created to oversee the scheme, the Comms Alliance said.

It said the scheme had a "strong emphasis" on public education rather than explicit sanctions against internet users, but admitted the scheme did allow rights holders a "facilitated preliminary discovery" process to take legal action against persistent infringers.

After a final notice, rights holders will be provided with "assistance" to sue infringers, the code states.

The issue of preliminary discovery is currently being debated in the federal court between ISP iiNet and the owner of the film Dallas Buyers Club, which is pushing iiNet to hand over customer details so it can contact alleged copyright infringers.

iiNet is resisting as it claims the company will send threatening letters to the ISP's users demanding payment, an approach Dallas Buyers Club LLC has taken in the US.

The Communications Alliance said its scheme contained "strong safeguards" against threats to privacy for internet users. 

The scheme will allow an account holder who receives three infringement notices within a year to have the validity of the allegations independently reviewed, the Comms Alliance said.

Rights holders including Foxtel, News Corp, Village Roadshow, and the Australian Recording Industry Association, among others, were involved in the consultation process.

The proposed scheme is open for public comment until March 22. The effectiveness of the code would be independently evaluated 18 months after commencement on September 1, the Comms Alliance said.

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