iiNet Asks Why Downloaders Are Treated As Bigger Criminals Than Speeding Drivers

It’s still not clear if there’ll be a further appeal in the iiNet vs studios piracy case, but the ISP isn’t staying quiet on the issue while it waits to find out. In a new paper it argues that there should be an independent body which assesses and assigns penalties for copyright infringements, drawing on the points model we’re familiar with from driving licences.

The bit that grabbed me particularly in the paper (you can grab the whole 14-page PDF if you’re interested) is the comparison of the way in which punishments are assigned to, respectively, speeding drivers and copyright infringers:

Authorities regularly equate speeding as a cause of death, injury and major economic loss to the community . In spite of the seriousness of the offence, the graduated penalty structure for speeding never culminates in the total denial of access to transport.

Obviously, that isn’t true of the “cut off all access” penalties often demanded in copyright cases:

iiNet does not believe that termination of access for an entire household, or a business, as a result of one individual’s infringement, is ever appropriate or proportional . As with speeding infringements, speed cameras may permit the identification of a vehicle, via its registration plate, but not necessarily the identity of the driver . The owner of the vehicle has the option of accepting a fine, when notified by the appropriate body or, alternatively, can make a declaration to the authorities, identifying the driver for the issue of penalties.

Those penalties should also recognise that a single viewing of a movie at home is not the same as making multiple copies for sale:

Infringements can be ranked as minor (say, single instances), major (say multiple instances of different files) or serious (at a commercial level) . Each level having prescribed penalties. Repeat infringements may require further definition – say a minimum period of one week between detections, or examples of sharing multiple files. A scale of fines can be established, relative to the economic loss represented, and demerit points could also be awarded in line with the severity of the infringements . When a defined limit is reached, other sanctions might be deemed appropriate. These could involve charges being laid for treatment by the courts or possibly shaping of peer to peer traffic.

Obviously, iiNet has a vested interest in promoting a scheme where ISPs aren’t responsible for enforcement, but that certainly doesn’t mean its proposal is without merit. Does this sound like a better way of dealing with infringement to you? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.

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