After last week’s resounding Federal Court win for internet service provider iiNet, the movie industry seemed to ask the government to help them out. The government, however, has told them to sort out their own problems.

Immediately following Thursday’s judgement, the executive director of the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT) Neil Gane told the media, “We are confident the government will not intend a policy where rampant copyright infringement is allowed to continue unaddressed and unabated across the internet.”

On Friday, however, communications minister Senator Stephen Conroy expressed disappointment that the issue of online copyright infringement had ended up in court in the first place.

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“Unfortunately, because of a refusal to hold a dialogue – and I’ve been trying for two years to encourage the sectors to have a dialogue – they’ve got themselves into a court battle, which [sic] there was a decisive outcome in favour of iiNet and the ISPs,” Conroy told ABC TV’s youth current affairs and comedy program Hungry Beast, of all people.

Election year, much?

“What I would still hope is that we can bring them together to sit down and settle their differences, create a code of practice that actually protects both parties,” Conroy said.

As Crikey reported on Friday, some countries have been introducing legislation requiring ISPs to police acts of copyright infringement. Conroy, however, wants the entertainment industry and the ISPs to kiss and make up first.

Repeating his call for an industry-based code of practice, Conroy said, “Let’s see where that goes before we start leaping off down that path [of legislation].”

iiNet has already indicated willingness to open discussions.

“We are eager to engage with the film industry and copyright holders to make this material legitimately available,” iiNet said in a statement Thursday.

Peter Black, who teaches internet law at Queensland University of Technology, agrees that new legislation should be avoided.

“It’s quite clear that [Senator Conroy] really has enough on his plate dealing with Telstra and dealing with the NBN, dealing with filtering, before going into a mire of copyright reform once again,” Black told Crikey.

“The Howard government went through really two waves of quite extensive copyright reform, and it’s always a long drawn-out complicated process.”

While Senator Conroy could perhaps handball the problem to the Attorney-General, who has traditionally handled copyright law reform, Black “just can’t see that happening”.

“The statement that Conroy made reflects what everyone has been saying in this particular space and sector for some time,” Black said.

“The way forward … is not to deal with law suits and not to deal with sweeping reforms of the Copyright Act to make various people liable. It’s time for the ISPs and the content providers to sit down and think about new business models … rather than clinging to old outdated business models.”

“Hopefully Conroy’s comment will just be another little push to the entertainment industries that they need to start looking forward rather than backwards.”

Disclosure: Stilgherrian is a customer of iiNet, as well as Telstra and Virgin Mobile. He has not communicated with iiNet about this case, nor they with him.

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Peter Fray
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