Downloaded shock and awe down under – Australia amongst the world’s worst? Surely this could not be. But yes, a recent report on internet piracy named this country as one of the worst offenders and now it has been suggested that Australia could kill two birds with one stone with new data retention laws. The Federal Police believe that the proposed data retention laws targeting terrorists could indeed also be used to crack down on piracy. The question however is whether Australia realises the complexity of piracy and what are the rights of our Internet Service Providers (ISP’s)?
The ignominious global ranking of Australia’s piracy recently prompted the Government’s proposed legislation that left many Internet service providers (ISP’s) aghast, suggesting they should take greater responsibility and financial liability. This however is merely speculation, an idea that has not thoroughly been planned or discussed with the industry as a whole. Suggesting data retention laws can also be used to crack down on Australians pirating music and movies is optimistic however at this stage is not a long term solution to the issue at hand.
Lack of consultation, unrealistic technical expectation and biased legal and financial responsibilities are just some of the concerns cited by ISP providers. Australia has a real lack of affordable legal alternatives for piracy and the Film and TV industry unrealistically delay the release of content. Adding to this there is no real system for the management of copyright infringement exists, and what exactly constitutes legal and illegal traffic anyway?
Over the past twelve months many smaller ISP’s have implemented systems aimed at achieving compliance with the Federal Government’s Safe Harbour Scheme. Broadband Solutions, for example, has been keeping a close eye on internet piracy implanting a policy and system to warn clients of the consequences of repeated copyright infringement. As a smaller ISP in the Australian market however we have not received proper guidelines from the government nor an opportunity to share our views and concerns. Instead we have been left to seek our own legal advice.
The suggestion of making Australia’s ISP’s step up and take even greater responsibility and financial liability for piracy has prompted questions not only over who is ‘responsible’ but also how we are working together realistically as an industry.
Streaming the other side of the debate, is the idea that following initial set up, ISPs would not be heavily burdened by managing infringements – the argument claiming that it really is as simple as just clicking a button. This is ludicrous as the process is far more complex.
When analysing the logistics around preventing and punishing content piracy, the impracticality of the proposed policy becomes even more evident. Yes, ISPs receive notifications that customers have downloaded content illegally however the lack of a secure portal makes it difficult for ISPs to verify authenticity of these emails. Adding to this, distinguishing between legal and illegal traffic is not a simple process.
The proposed legislative solution and data retention laws fail to acknowledge the complex nature of piracy and the internet of things, and instead shifts the responsibility and financial burdens onto businesses that merely deliver content rather than own it.
Before jumping to conclusions and placing sole responsibility and financial burdens on Australian ISPs perhaps everyone involved – the Australian Government, Federal Police and industry as a whole should come together to discuss the issue and develop a strategy that provides a long term solution to the problem.
Last modified: September 11, 2015