The Communications Alliance has called for caution following the release of the Government's online copyright infringement discussion paper. Communications Alliance chief executive, John Stanton, said its member ISPs did not condone online copyright infringement and encouraged the lawful use of the Internet. "We believe that for any scheme designed to address online copyright infringement to be sustainable it must also stimulate innovation by growing the digital content market, so Australians can continue to access and enjoy new and emerging content, devices and technologies," he said. "The ISP members of Communications Alliance remain willing to work toward a solution that balances the interests of all stakeholders, including consumers." Stanton said the Alliance did not share the view of the discussion paper that the High Court's decision in Roadshow Films Pty Ltd v iiNet Ltd (April 2012) undermined Australia's international obligations.
"Nor that there is any obligation in Australia's free trade agreements that means the Copyright Act must be amended to extend authorisation liability, " he said. "If the Government does ultimately decide to amend the Copyright Act, this should only take place after an agreement on an industry scheme is reached, as such a scheme may go a long way to addressing their concerns." Stanton said that careful consideration was needed regarding the proposal to extend the authorisation liability within the Copyright Act. "This proposal has the potential to capture many other entities, including schools, universities, libraries and Cloud-based services in ways that may hamper their legitimate activities and disadvantage consumers," he said. He said the discussion paper contemplated ISPs being required, in response to third party allegations, to impose sanctions on their customers accused of infringing copyright.
ISPs have been consistent in their view that any actions in response to allegations of copyright infringement must have robust safeguards in place including independent oversight to protect the interests of consumers, he said. "We note and support the Government's expectation, expressed in the paper, that an industry scheme, if agreed, should not provide for the interruption of a subscriber's internet access — although the possibility of internet accounts being terminated is contemplated under the existing Safe Harbour provisions of the Copyright Act." According to an Alliance statement, the industry has identified several key matters that should be addressed in any scheme. The scheme should support a holistic end-to-end approach, accepted by government, rights holders, ISPs and consumers. Also, stronger efforts by rights holders and the Government should be made to ensure that consumers can access lawful, affordable content when they want it, accompanied by public education on how and where to access such content; There should be a level playing field involving all ISPs and rights holders, so as not to distort the market. The new scheme should also recognise that technology is moving very quickly and any solution may be quickly redundant. It should also have independent (judicial or regulatory) oversight and legal protection for ISPs. Further, there should be consultation with, and protections for, customers and consumer groups including in areas such as privacy and access to an appeal mechanism; Lastly, resolution of funding for any scheme should be consistent with enforcement of other intellectual property rights, and consistent with how ISPs assist other parties (particularly law enforcement agencies) to address other digital content issues and innovation in the digital content market.
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