Online copyright infringement in australia

Playing catch up: last month saw some significant developments for online copyright infringement in Australia:

  1. First, Dallas Buyers Club’s lawyers announced it is no longer pursuing its court action to get prelimiary discovery of the contact details of the 4726 alleged infringers: it’s over;
  2. Secondly, Mr Burke from Village Roadshow announced that the proposed Graduated Response industry code has been shelved;
  3. Thirdly, Village Roadshow and Foxtel announced that they are both bringing court proceedings to obtain website blocking injunctions against ISPs.

Graduated response (or 3-strikes)

One of the factors in the iiNet case which influenced the High Court to find that iiNet did not authorise the infringing acts of its subscribers was that iiNet could not credibly threaten to discipline subscribers accused of infringing by peer to peer downloading because, in the absence of an Industry Code, the subscribers could simply switch to another provider.

In response to that, the draft Industry Code arose from [a Government warning][agltr] that, if the parties did not come up with a solution, the Government would impose one.

However, Mr Burke has now reported that it would cost between $16 and $20 to issue each Infringement Notice under the proposed scheme because it would be necessary to check each notice manually. As he pithily explained, it would be cheaper to give the (putative) infringer a copy of the film:

“And it’s just so labour intense, that it’s somewhere in the vicinity of $16 to $20 per notice, which is prohibitive. You might as well give people a DVD.”

According to Mr Burke, if it is possible to develop an automated scheme, the costs should fall to “cents”. Until then, the scheme has been shelved.[1]

Finally, Mr Burke did go on to say that it was incumbent on rights holders to fight piracy by improving access to their content.

I wonder if we shall see a resumption of efforts to “fix” the authorisation provisions in the Act?

Website blocking injunctions

In the meantime, you will remember that last year Parliament added s 115A to the Copyright Act 1968, giving rights holders power to go to court to get injunctions ordering ISPs to block access to offshore piracy websites.

Now Village Roadshow and a number of Hollywood studios have brought action in the Federal Court seeking orders to block access to Solamovie, which is alleged to facilitate unauthorised streaming. There are 50 named ISP respondents including Telstra, Optus, M2 and TPG. The first directions hearing appears to be scheduled before Nicholas J in Sydney at 9:30am on 16 March. The website s115a.com has links to the Court documents, including the Originating Application and the Statement of Claim uploaded by Rohan Pearce.

Meanwhile, in a separate action, Foxtel has also gone after The Pirate Bay, Torrenz, TorrentHunt and IsoHunt. Nicholas J is holding the first directions for this one at 9:30am on 15 March. As with the Village Roadshow case, s115a.com has links to the documents, courtesy of Mr Pearce.


  1. The announcement seems to have come as some surprise to the ISPs. The report did not indicate who would pay for the development of the prognoticated automated system.  ?

Online copyright infringement reforms announced

The Attorney-General and the Minister for Communications have issued a joint media release announcing the Government’s response to July’s Issues Paper:

  1. First step: they have written to “industry leaders” and told them to come up with an agreed industry code for a “graduated response” regime[1] to be registered with the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) under Part 6 of the Telecommunications Act 1997;
  2. Second step: if the “industry leaders” cannot come up with an agreement within 120 days [2]:

    the Government will impose binding arrangements either by an industry code prescribed by the Attorney-General under the Copyright Act 1968 or an industry standard prescribed by the ACMA, at the direction of the Minister for Communications under the Telecommunications Act.

  3. Third step: the Government will also amend the Copyright Act to enable rights holders to get injunctions ordering ISPs to block access to websites outside Australia that provide access to infringing content.

Well, at least, Option 1 in the Issues Paper seems to have died a deserved death.[3] The media release does not mention, however, whether or not the Government will extend the “safe harbour” provisions to “service providers” and not just “carriage service providers”.

The letter the Government sent to “industry leaders” did provide some general direction about the contents of the anticipated industry code:

  • that ISPs take reasonable steps (including the development of an education and warning notice scheme) to deter online copyright infringement on their network, when they are made aware of infringing subscribers, in a manner that is proportionate to the infringement
  • informing consumers of the implications of copyright infringement and legitimate alternatives that provide affordable and timely content
  • providing appropriate safeguards for consumers
  • fairly apportioning costs as between ISPs and rights holders
  • ensuring smaller ISPs are not unfairly or disproportionately affected, and
  • include a process for facilitated discovery to assist rights holders in taking direct copyright infringement action against a subscriber after an agreed number of notices

and included the exhortation:

Any code must be sustainable and technology neutral. It should be educative and attempt to address the reasons that people are accessing unauthorised content. Consumer interests must be given genuine consideration in your negotiations.

There is no more detail on what sanctions, if any, would apply.[4]

The media release also includes a warning, of sorts, to the right holders:

The issue of affordability and accessibility of legitimate content is a key factor in reducing online copyright infringement. The Government welcomes recent action by content owners and expects industry to continue to respond to this demand from consumers in the digital market.

It will be interesting to see if the “industry leaders” can come up with an agreed code, given they have failed to reach agreement for over a decade now. Even if the Government is forced to impose a code, it may also be interesting see which ISPs join in the scheme. If there is an industry code and significant ISPs join in, would that be a basis for reconsidering the High Court’s ruling of non-authorisation in the iiNet case which was predicated, at least in part, on the ability of subscribers to jump ship from iiNet to another ISP if sanctions were imposed.

Lid dip: David Andrews.


  1. That is a system whereby subscribers get some number of notices that their account is (allegedly) being used to infringe copyright and warning them to stop or …. All the media release says at this stage:  ?

    The code will include a process to notify consumers when a copyright breach has occurred and provide information on how they can gain access to legitimate content.

  2. According to the letter the Government sent to “industry leaders”, the industry code must be agreed by 8 April 2015. (Update: you can now read the letter via this link (scroll down).At the moment, I don’t seem to be able to find a copy of the letter, which was attached to the media release, online.)  ?
  3. The media release says that the effectiveness of these measures will be reviewed in 18 months as in “a world of rapid changes in technology and human behaviour, there is no single measure that can eliminate online copyright infringement.”.  ?
  4. Yesterday’s press reports suggested that “harsh measures” like internet throttling would not be available.  ?

Roadshow v iiNet 2

Last month, iiNet (by the skin of its teeth) avoided being found liable for authorising the P2P infringing activities of users of its internet access services.

Kim Weatherall and Ass. Pro. David Brennan provide their respective initial takes here and here.

Perhaps in recognition that iiNet (and pretty much any other ISP) will be in big trouble if they sit on their hands when the next letter of demand comes in from AFACT notice comes in, Meanwhile on 11 March, the Internet Industries Association has announced that it is “fastracking” development of an industry code to deal with copyright infringement.