While Americans were enjoying Thanksgiving last Thursday Australia's Internet service providers held a meeting to come to a consensus on how to deal with illegal file-sharing in the country. Their solution is a plan called "Scheme to Address Online Copyright Infringement," and it basically compels Australian ISPs to send "education and warning" notices to consumers who use their broadband connections to infringe copyright laws, according to an Ars Technica report.
The deal is the result of discussions between the Communications Alliance and five of Australia's largest ISPs that include Telstra Bigpond, iiNet, Optus, iPrimus, and Internode. The plan is a trial scheme to be reviewed over an 18-month period.
"The trial would be followed by an independent evaluation of its effectiveness including whether it produced a real change in consumer behavior and whether the Scheme should be continued in its initial form or modified for improvement," reads a press release announcing the plan.
The system uses four stages: in the first stage and within 14 days of a perceived infringement, a copyright holder can send a "Copyright Infringement Notice" to an ISP. In stage two the ISP tries to find the related IP address, and will then forward the account holder an "Education Notice" about copyright infringement. In the third stage - if the copyright holder believes that further infringements have occurred over the course of a year can continue to file complaints about the subscriber, who will then receive "Warning Notices" regarding the activities. If a subscriber gets one education and three warning notices it will trigger stage four, a "Discovery Notice" that informs the subscriber that legal action may be on the way.
At this point the rights holder can request access to the subscriber's details by a preliminary discovery or a subpoena application, for the purpose of taking direct copyright infringement action. If the ISP is served with an order, they would then disclose the offending account's information.
The Australian proposal also includes various safeguards including a "pre-approval" process for any Rights Holder that wants to participate in the trial of the plan. This apparently includes an inspection and audit of the rights holder's infringement detection technology and the system to create the infringement notices that will be sent to ISPs.
As part of this plan, a Copyright Industry Panel will be launched that will create an appeals process allowing the accused who think they have not engaged in infringement to "query the basis" of their notices "and gain further information" about the complaints against them. Finally, if an account accused of infringement has no further complaints in a 12-month period, the status of that account will be reset. If trouble should arise with the account again it would be treated as if the previous infringement claims never happened.
Interestingly enough, the plan is already under fire, but not by rights groups or internet advocacy groups. Rights holders don't think it goes far enough and have flatly rejected it, according to a report in The Australian.
The Australian Content Industry Group (ACIG), which represents music and film interests including the Australia Recording Industry Association and APRA-AMCOS, said on Monday that it would not ratify the plan. ACIG spokesperson Vanessa Hutley said the plan does not meet the industry's expectations.
"ACIG does not think the scheme proposed by the Communications Alliance and its members creates a balanced process and it falls well short of the expectations we had had for an open, balanced and fair solution," Hutley said. "We continue to hope that we can engage in positive discussions to bring about a solution to this important issue."
Pay-TV provider Foxtel also said it would not ratify the plan, complaining that it did not provide measures like the ability to slow down the connections of copyright infringers who are "repeat offenders."
"Piracy is undermining the business models and employment of thousands and thousands of Australians employed in our creative industries," the spokesman said. "It won't be addressed by one side, namely the ISPs, furiously agreeing with itself on what they believe is the solution without content providers agreeing to the proposed approach."
Source: Ars Technica