Anti-piracy scheme finalised

Copyright owners and ISPs have agreed on the terms of a new code of practice designed to reduce online copyright infringement.

Due to come into force on September 1, the Copyright Notice Scheme Code will result in ISPs sending up to three written warnings to broadband customers who are suspected of persistently downloading pirated content.

ISPs would then provide rights holders with a list of the number of account holders who receive three warnings and would assist in their application to the Federal Court to disclose the names and contact details of the offenders for possible court action.

The code was finalised today to meet a deadline imposed by the federal government and sent to the Australian Communications and Media Authority for registration.

“It’s a significant milestone,” John Stanton, CEO of the Communications Alliance which reps ISPs, search engines, equipment vendors and IT companies, tells IF.  "We still have to make the scheme work once it's in place.

“All stakeholders believe the code can be an important tool toward the shared objective of reducing online copyright infringement in Australia.”

Foxtel welcomed the submission of the code as a significant step forward in the fight against online piracy which threatens the creative industries. A spokesman tells IF, "Foxtel will continue to work with ISPs and other rights holders to resolve remaining commercial and operational issues necessary to give effect to the code."

The code will impose a cap of 200,000 infringement notices in 12 months, proportionate to the size of each ISP so as to avoid placing an unnecessary burden on the smaller telcos.

Still to be resolved is the question of how the costs of processing and sending out the notices will be apportioned between ISPs and rights holders. That will be covered in a separate commercial agreement which is being negotiated.

The scheme will enable an account holder who receives three infringement notices in 12 months to have the validity of the allegations independently reviewed. It will apply only to residential fixed internet users.

After receiving more than 370 public submissions in to the draft code, the ISPs and rights holders made two major changes.

A proposed $25 fee that would have been payable by internet users in order to challenge and obtain an independent review of an infringement notice was scrapped.

The Copyright Information Panel, which will appoint an adjudication panel to hear individual infringement cases and run a web site to help educate the public on infringement issues, will have two reps from consumer groups, not one as originally proposed, plus. two reps from ISPs and two from rights holders.

Rights holders involved in the code development include APRA AMCOS, ARIA, Australia Screen Association, Copyright Agency, Foxtel, Free TV Australia, Music Rights Australia, News Corp, Village Roadshow and World Media.

The effectiveness of the code will be independently evaluated after 18 months.

The scheme is unrelated to the Federal Court action by the owners of Dallas Buyers Club, who successfully applied to have ISPs instructed to divulge the names and contact details of customers accused of illegally downloading the 2013 film which starred Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner and Jared Leto.

Dallas Buyers Club LLC claimed it had identified 4,726 Australian IP addresses of web users who illegally downloaded the movie. The ruling means the company will now be able to sue the alleged offenders directly for compensation. 

Stanton told the ABC’s 7.30 report he expects any costs or damages would be compensatory rather than punitive. He suggested that if revenue has been avoided on a movie download that normally costs $15,  "the demand for payment, if there is one, ought to reflect that."