AFACT, iiNet call for amendments to copyright law

Copyright laws have not kept pace with the online environment says AFACT

The Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT) and iiNet, have called on the Federal Government to update the Copyright Act of 1968 to suit the current digital environment.

It follows a unanimous decision in the High Court of Australia, which dismissed an appeal lodged by AFACT against iiNet, in the pair’s longstanding copyright case. AFACT lost a previous appeal to the Federal Court of Australia in February 2010.

Following the decision in iiNet’s favour, AFACT managing director, Neil Gane, told a press conference in Sydney that both judgements in the case against iiNet recognised that copyright law was no longer equipped to deal with the rate of technological change seen since the law of authorisation was last tested.

“They both point to the need for legislation to protect copyright owners against peer to peer [P2P] infringements,” he said.

“We are confident the government would not want copyright infringement to go on unabated across Australian networks, especially with the rollout of the National Broadband Network [NBN],” he said.

Gane added that Australian law was been “left behind” by overseas developments in online copyright protection.

“In the three years since the case commenced, legislators, regulators and courts around the world have mandated that ISPs must play a central role in preventing online copyright theft,” he said.

iiNet chief executive, Michael Malone, said it was time for the government to step in with copyright act changes and he was happy to follow the rules, whatever they might be.

“iiNet has never supported or encouraged unauthorised sharing or file downloading,” he said. “Increasing the availability of lawful, online content in a more timely, affordable and reasonably priced manner would be the best method to protect content owners’ copyright.”

Malone added that there was strong evidence that content partnerships and agreements between ISPs, legal websites and copyright holders had done more to reduce piracy and to showcase copyright holders’ materials than an “unproductive legal battle.”

He added that the case had cost iiNet $9 million in legal expenses.

“We have consistently said we are eager to work with the studios to make their very desirable material legitimately available to a waiting customer base - and that offer remains the same today,” he said.

The Copyright Act was tested in another court case in March involving Optus and sporting bodies, the National Rugby League (NRL) union and the Australian Football League (AFL).

The NRL and AFL argued in the High Court in Sydney that the telco had breached the Act by screening live sports via its mobile TV service, TV Now. However, Justice Steven Rares ruled in favour of Optus and said the service itself did not infringe copyright in the ways that the right holders alleged.

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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