10.08 2014

Government seeks legislative reforms to combat online copyright infringements

The Australian Government recently issued a discussion paper titled Online Copyright Infringement seeking input from stakeholders on various proposals to prevent or reduce online copyright infringements.  This alert outlines the various proposals at a high level.

Online copyright infringement has been a long standing issue.  The ease of digitising media and disseminating through mediums such as websites, ftp servers and peer-to-peer networks have facilitated online copyright infringement at a global scale.  Copyright infringements have a significant negative impact upon the economy and Australia in particular is identified as having high illegal download rates.

Given the practicality of identifying and enforcing infringements, the Government believes that internet service providers (ISPs) should take reasonable steps to discourage or reduce online copyright infringements.  A number of countries including the United States and New Zealand have already adopted an approach involving ISPs being required to issue copyright infringement notices to its customers, with repeat offenders facing penalties or other sanctions.

This is however contrasted against the decision of the High Court in Roadshow Films Pty Ltd v iiNet Ltd (2012) 148 CLR 42, where it was determined that that ISPs are not responsible for its customers’ acts of copyright infringement.  Australian ISPs are therefore far less receptive to co-operating with copyright holders in preventing online copyright infringements.  The proposals within the discussion paper are therefore partly aimed at addressing this issue.

The discussion paper proposes amending the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) to:

(a) extend the scope of authorisation liability, in turn forcing ISPs to take “reasonable steps” to prevent or avoid copyright infringement by subscribers;

(b) enable copyright holders to apply for a court order against ISPs to block access to an internet site operated outside Australia which has the dominant purpose of infringing copyright; and/or

(c) extend the application of the “safe harbour” scheme to all service providers.

 The Government is seeking input on the above proposals, as well as whether there are any other approaches that stakeholders believe would be appropriate.

If this is an area that affects your business, you should take this opportunity to submit a response by Monday, 1 September 2014.

If you would like further information please feel free to contact us.


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