Landmark Federal Court legal action by movie producers against Australia’s third-largest internet service provider, iiNET, has highlighted the problems of unlawful downloads and unauthorised file sharing.
RMIT University General Counsel, John Lambrick, says unlawful file sharing – which is estimated to account for between 50 and 80 per cent of broadband use in Australia – raises complex issues for rights holders, lawyers and regulators.
“The Rudd Government is considering a ‘three strikes and you’re out’ policy against internet users who download unlawfully,” Mr Lambrick said.
“But market research has found 63 per cent of young Australians feel there’s no point paying for music that’s otherwise freely available so there’s a strong need for education to change these attitudes and promote the protection of copyright. The government may also oblige Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to monitor people’s use and filter infringing content but this would fail to recognise the technical and legal issues involved.”
“While filtering technology does exist for particular types of content, it’s not technically possible for ISPs to reliably detect and block unauthorised file sharing so any such legislation would be futile,” Mr Lambrick said.
“Additionally, the ’safe harbour’ provisions of the Copyright Act ,which limit the liability of ISPs for unauthorised file sharing by their account holders, offer no incentive for ISPs to help resolve the problem by other means. The only workable solution currently available is for the government to help
develop a co-operative agreement between ISPs and rights holders, similar to what has happened in the UK and France. This may well be the ultimate objective of the plaintiffs in the iiNet litigation.”
“Telling illegal downloaders ‘three strikes and you’re out’ may sound good, but such a plan can only succeed if there is cooperation between rights holders and ISPs and the appropriate legal architecture to ensure integrity and fairness.”