Five days after it was leaked online, the Federal Government's discussion paper on online copyright infringement — the pirating and illegal downloading of software, movies, music and TV shows in Australia — has been officially released.
While the official Online Copyright Infringement Discussion Paper isn't available yet from the Attorney-General's website, you can temporarily find the paper itself here. We'll update this story with an official link when it becomes available.
The discussion paper pulls no punches in sharing the government's opinion that online piracy is a problem: "The ease with which copyrighted content can be digitised and distributed online means there is no easy solution to preventing online copyright infringement. International experience has shown that a range of measures are necessary to reduce piracy and ensure that we can continue to take full advantage of the legitimate opportunities to create, provide and enjoy content in a digital environment."
"The Australian Government believes that everybody has a role in reducing online copyright infringement. Rights holders can ensure that content can be accessed easily and at a reasonable price by their customers. Internet Service Providers can take reasonable steps to ensure their systems are not used to infringe copyright. Consumers can do the right thing and access content lawfully."
According to the discussion paper, that range of measures may include site blocking — "extended injunctive relief to block infringing overseas sites" — and changing 'safe harbour' rules, to protect institutions like universities from liability for copyright infringements occurring on their private networks and online search engines for linking to and caching infringing content.
It's interesting to see that the push for copyright infringement reform comes in part from Australia's developing international free trade agreements like KAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. "Australia is obliged under its free trade agreements with the United States, Singapore and Korea (not yet ratified) to provide a legal incentive to ISPs to cooperate with rights holders to prevent infringement on their systems and networks."
The official discussion paper is changed only slightly from the leaked version; for example, the 'overseas experience' omits a reference to changing consumer behaviour on piracy. The goverment also notes that it is not inviting comment on issues considered by the IT Pricing Inquiry of 2013.
The important news here is that the government is now inviting submissions from the public — that's you, whether you're a pirate or not. You can have a say in Australia's approach to combating copyright infringement, what tactics are used and whether the approach should be more carrot than stick. Any interested parties have until the end of 1 September to submit their opinions and can do so by emailing [email protected]ov.au. [Attorney-General]