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Australia to block piracy sites if Big Content asks nicely in court

ISPs and Big Content told to self-regulate in six months, or have the job done for them

Australia will join the ranks of nations that ask local internet service providers block access to sites suspected of illegally distributing copyrighted material.

The nation's attorney-general George Brandis and communications minister Malcolm Turnbull today revealed their intention to “amend the Copyright Act, to enable rights holders to apply for a court order requiring ISPs to block access to a website, operated outside of Australia … that can be shown to be primarily for the purpose of facilitating online copyright infringement.”

In other words, Australians aren't going to be allowed to anchor in the Pirate Bay for much longer.

Just how the process of obtaining a court order will work is yet to be revealed, but it may be that stakeholders can come up with the mechanisms themselves.

We offer that suggestion because the two minister also announced a plan to give representatives of Big Content, ISPs and other industry stakeholders four months to come up with a workable code of conduct, or face the prospect of the government writing one for them.

The minister and attorney-general have written to stakeholders and explained the kind of code they are after, insisting on the following provisions:

  • that ISPs take reasonable steps (including the development of an education and warning notice scheme) to deter online copyright infringement on their network, when they are made aware of infringing subscribers, in a manner that is proportionate to the infringement
  • informing consumers of the implications of copyright infringement and legitimate alternatives that provide affordable and timely content
  • providing appropriate safeguards for consumers
  • fairly apportioning costs as between ISPs and rights holders
  • ensuring smaller ISPs are not unfairly or disproportionately affected, and
  • include a process for facilitated discovery to assist rights holders in taking direct copyright infringement action against a subscriber after an agreed number of notices.

The letter also insists that “Any code must be sustainable and technology neutral. It should be educative and attempt to address the reasons that people are accessing unauthorised content. Consumer interests must be given genuine consideration in your negotiations.”

The letter's intent is obvious: sort this out yourselves, or face legislation that won't please at least some of you.

Somewhere in Australia, a venue offering meeting rooms has just taken a decent booking. Oh to be a fly on the walk when the talks start. ®

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