A draft copyright industry response to the federal government’s proposed crackdown on file sharing urges a compulsory internet surveillance scheme and a ferocious attack on Australian internet service providers that would deem them responsible for piracy regardless of their actions and impose the copyright industry’s enforcement costs on them.

The draft paper, obtained by Crikey, has been prepared in response to Attorney-General George Brandis and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s call for submissions on addressing file sharing, revealed by Crikey in July.

The document was prepared jointly by the “Australian Screen Association”, “Australian Home Entertainment Distributors Association” and the “Motion Picture Distributors Association of Australia” — all of them front groups for foreign studios — and groups representing local cinema operators. The paper claims Australians are the world’s worst content pirates, “despite the fact that the content industries have ensured the ready availability of online digital platforms and education of consumers on where they can acquire legitimate digital content”.

But it is Australian ISPs that the foreign-owned cartel are gunning for. The paper demands that the Copyright Act be altered to automatically assume ISPs are authorising infringements of copyright, which would “deem authorisation to occur where an ISP fails to take reasonable steps — which are also defined inclusively to include compliance with a Code or Regulations — in response to infringements of copyright it knows or reasonably suspects are taking place on its network”. This would mean ISPs could be held responsible for copyright infringement even if they didn’t know it was taking place.

The paper also demands that ISPs implement an internet surveillance and censorship scheme via the imposition of an industry code of conduct based on the US Copyright Alert Scheme. Under that scheme, participating ISPs agree to monitor the internet usage of IP addresses flagged by copyright holders (with no independent oversight to ensure they’re correct), block them from reaching certain sites or even hijack their browsers to prevent them from using the internet. ISPs also agree to hand over user details to the copyright cartel for prosecution. If ISPs prove unwilling to embrace the American scheme via an industry code of conduct, the paper says, it should be imposed by legislation.

The paper also proposes that ISPs pay to implement such a scheme, saying “ISPs would bear the costs of matching the IP addresses in the infringement notices to subscribers, issuing the notices and taking any necessary technical mitigation measures”. It is also gung-ho for site-blocking, claiming (contrary to extensive experience overseas) that blocking is effective — probably why the Pirate Bay now has double the traffic of three years ago — and that overblocking isn’t a problem, but maintains ISPs should be the ones responsible for the costs of blocking sites at the request of the copyright cartel. And unsurprisingly, the cartel wants to block any extension of the “safe harbour” scheme proposed in the government paper.

The funniest part of the paper, however, is its response to the question “What rights should consumers have in response to any scheme or ‘reasonable steps’ taken by ISPs or rights holders? Does the legislative framework need to provide for these rights?”, to which it devotes six paragraphs explaining that consumers should have no rights, because the proposed US scheme has worked perfectly.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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