Five major Australian internet service providers (ISPs) — iiNet, Internode, Primus, Optus and Telstra — have released a proposal for dealing with online piracy. It's an education-based scheme that doesn't force ISPs to cut off customers accused of piracy by movie studios, but there's a way to go before it becomes reality.
Picture by Guillermo R. Loizaga
ISPs have resisted an ongoing push by the entertainment industry to make providers primarily responsible for enforcing copyright laws against people who download movies and TV shows via torrents. The general argument is that making ISPs responsible for activities conducted by their users would be like holding a phone company responsible if two burglars plan a robbery on a mobile call. That view has generally been supported by the courts, but it's clear that without some kind of system in place, brawls over the issue will continue.
The Notice Scheme, which the five ISPs are proposing through industry body Communications Alliance, isn't yet an enforceable policy — the group has released it for public discussion to stimulate further debate over the issue. Under this proposal, which would run as an 18-month trial:
- Rights holders will have to demonstrate that they have effective, accurate piracy detection technology before they can take part in the scheme.
- If rights holders provide evidence of infringement by an IP address associated with that ISP, ISPs will send "education and warning notices" to a customer associated with that IP address (assuming they can be identified).
- After four notices are sent, rights holders may choose to pursue legal action by serving a "discovery notice" to identify the customer. However, the ISP will not impose sanctions on customers or cut off their access.
- Customers will be able to appeal if they are sent a notice but believe no copyright laws have been broken.
In the trial phase, the ISPs propose that no more than 100 notices per month should be served on any one provider, to ensure they're not flooded with huge volumes of requests. One big bone of contention: who should pay for establishing and running such a scheme.
The paper also argues that offering more effective and timely legal access to movies, music and TV online will ultimately be more effective than suing the pants off everyone, which is hard to argue with.
Does this sound like a reasonable proposal for handling online copyright issues? Share your thoughts in the comments.