The entertainment industry will be pursuing legislative reform following the High Court’s decision last week to declare iiNet not responsible for the copyright infringements of its users.
The group of entertainment and media companies comprising the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft, which includes Roadshow Films, Warner Brothers, Paramount and 20th Century Fox, has expressed its disappointment in the decision and said it would be lobbying for legislative change.
The move comes as Telstra chief executive David Thodey weighed in on the decision over the weekend, saying it is possible for internet service providers and copyright holders to come to an agreement on how to handle piracy.
“I think we can get our way through this one,” he said. “We’re interested to see what the court ruling is but whether it goes one way or another I think we’ve got a plan to handle it.”
With a court ruling now off the table, Telsyte director of research consulting, Chris Coughlan says ISPs and copyright holders will need to work together.
“This stops the content owners from chasing the middle man, so to speak. So the ISPs can probably rest easy,” he says.
“But the content industry will have to work with the ISPs to try and stem the issue around piracy. So there will be progress at the end of the day, and they will have to work together in order to do that.”
The office of attorney-general Nicola Roxon also said over the weekend it would examine the ruling.
“Industry stakeholders have been meeting regularly during the last year to develop a code of conduct to address the issue of illegal downloading,” a spokesperson said.
“The Attorney-General’s Department will continue to facilitate these discussions and we hope that industry will continue to work together to find a range of solutions to illegal downloading.”
In a press conference following the decision, Australian Federation against Copyright Theft managing director Neil Gane said the group will be pushing for laws to keep up with the change in technology.
“We’d look to propose some sort of legislative fix, in which appropriate action could be taken to deter peer-to-peer infringements that are occurring across Australia,” he said.
However, Gane said that he would prefer a voluntary code of conduct, and that AFACT does not intend to sue “end users” for copyright infringements.
Gane also cited the growth of the National Broadband Network as a catalyst for legislative change.
“We are confident the Government would not want copyright infringement to go on unabated across Australian networks, especially with the rollout of the NBN,” he said.
“The film and TV industry has always seen the internet as a medium of enormous potential to our business. Currently there are more than 20 online business models that make rights holders content available to the Australian public and this isn’t lost on the Australian public.”
Critics have said the copyright industry needs to update its business models, but AFACT claims it is the law that hasn’t been able to keep up.
“The judges recognise the significant rate of copyright infringement online and point to the fact that over half the usage of iiNet’s internet service by its customers (measured by volume) was represented by Bit Torrent file sharing which was known to be used for infringing activities,” Gane said last week.