The Communications Alliance has published a draft Code for a copyright notice scheme in Australia.

The draft Code will apply to residential, fixed line accounts only. It appears to be intended to apply to all ISPs of (an as yet to be determined) minimum size. The scheme does not involve ISPs terminating, suspending or throttling accounts, but leads up to the rights holders potentially making applications for preliminary discovery to identify egregious account holders. Participation in the scheme, however, does not preclude a rights holder from taking infringement proceedings at any stage.

The draft Code envisages 3 stages of notice:

  1. an Education Notice;
  2. a Warning Notice; and
  3. a Final Notice.

A rights holder who alleges an infringement would send a notice in the agreed form to the relevant ISP which would then issue a notice at the appropriate level to the account holder. The ISP must not at any stage disclose any personal information “including the identity or any contact details of an Account Holder at any stage of the copyright notice scheme, unless there is a court order or written permission from the Account Holder”.

Each type of notice will include, amongst other things, details about the alleged infringement and information where legitimate content can be obtained.

A Final Notice would be issued only within the 12 months from issue of the most recent Education Notice. If more than 12 months has passed, the process resets to the Education Notice.

If a Final Notice is sent, it will include a warning that the Account Holder may be subject to court proceedings including an application for preliminary discovery. An Account Holder who receives a Final Notice may challenge it before an Adjudication Panel on payment of a $25 fee. Until the challenge is resolved, the Account Holder must not be included in “the Final Notice List”. The costs of the Adjudication Panel are otherwise to be borne by the rights holders.

Rights holders can seek access to each ISP’s Final Notice List – which must be provided in a way that does not include any personal identification material and, having received it, the rights holder may apply to “a federal court or tribunal” for preliminary discovery and the ISP must abide by the outcome.

It is envisaged that the Code will operate for 18 months and then be subject to an evaluation.

The draft has been prepared through consultations involving:

  • on the ISPs side: Telstra, Optus, iiNet, IP Star, M2, Verizon and Vodafone Hutchison; and
  • on the rights holders side: APRA AMCOS, ARIA, Australia Screen Association, Copyright Agency, Foxtel, Free TV Australia, Music Rights Australia, News Corporation Australia, Village Roadshow Limited and World Media.

The implementation of the scheme will be overseen by a Copyright Information Panel, consisting of representatives of the ISPs, rights holders and “the Consumer Organisation”. The Copyright Information Panel will also be responsible for appointing the Adjudication Panel.

In addition to the size of ISPs who must participate, the press release notes that the parties are still to agree on the funding arrangements – i.e., who will bear the costs of the notices and administration – and how many notices an ISP may have to handle in any given month.

The publication of the draft reflects the ultimatum from the Attorney-General back in December.

The draft is now open for public comment until 23 March 2015. The intention is that, once finalised, the draft will be submitted to the Australian Communications and Media Authority for registration as an Industry Code under s 112 of the Telecommunications Act 1997.

Draft Code here (pdf).

Press release here.