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Copyright Reform to Limit Harsh Penalties for Illicit Downloaders

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shutterstock_113396665Australia, like many other countries, has a high rate of Internet piracy. The main categories of copyright material downloaded are movies, TV shows and music. Illicit access to such material is mainly provided by overseas websites which host pirated content.

In Australia, the Federal Government favours self-regulation without direct government involvement and has put forward a reform proposal scheduled to be debated at the final Cabinet meeting of 2014.

The central theme of the new legislative proposal is that overseas sites that host pirated movies and TV shows will be blocked to all Australians. However, the proposed regulations will not incorporate any prescribed punishment for downloading content subjected to copyright law.

Instead, the Government proposal seeks the establishment of self-regulation in the form of a code jointly developed by the Internet providers and copyright holders; a code that would subsequently be registered with the Australian Communication and Media Authority (ACMA). The proposed code would contain provisions for warning illicit downloaders that they are breaking copyright law. However, it is recognised that such practices can go undetected by people who use VPN technology or proxy servers.

Industry players do not agree on the details of the proposed legislation and there is concern as to which body should pay for the development and administration of the voluntary code.

  • Internet providers argue that the copyright holders should bear the cost.
  • Village Roadshow, a prominent Australian copyright holder, is pushing for a 50-50 split in payments.
  • Copyright holders in general campaign for tougher legislation than what is now being proposed.

Other issues also remain to be solved. Copyright holders will request the Cabinet to approve a mechanism that allows them to seek a Court injunction to block sites hosting illicit content.

Telecom companies appear to be in favour of the proposal but are concerned that copyright holders will successfully lobby the Cabinet to adopt a harsher approach.

The outcome should presumably become clearer throughout the new year.

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