Sep 19, 2014

Online Copyright Infringement Update

By Stu Watters

Earlier this year, the federal government released a discussion paper seeking input on Online Copyright Infringement Issues in Australia. The paper was a co-branded release between Senator George Brandis (Attorney General and Arts Minister) and Minister Malcolm Turnbull (Communications). AIR welcomes this paper and feels that this is an important step for any copyright owner in Australia as it provides the first tangible opportunity to protect our intellectual property rights and address some of the more systemic issues in the market.

The three main areas being addressed are as follows: extended authorisation liability (how you determine if a particular party has engaged in, or allowed, infringement); extended injunctive relief (which would address illegal off-shore streaming sites) and the extended safe harbour scheme (limits the remedies available against ‘Carriage Service Providers (CSPs)’ for copyright infringements that take place through their networks).

The most robust argument to be tabled on behalf of the music industry has been lead by and large by Music Rights Australia (MRA) and AIR has supported that position. AIR wholly supports MRA’s submission to the Discussion Paper and would particularly draw the Government’s attention to the distinction MRA makes in its submission regarding the Music Industry as a clear case in point where legitimate services are readily available, yet Internet users continue to access unlicensed infringing websites. This is despite the fact there are over 30 legal services available in Australia representing one of the greatest concentration of legitimate services than any other country in the world.

While AIR shares membership with a number of the contributing member organisations, it is important to highlight that the majority of AIR’s membership comprises mainly of small to medium enterprises throughout Australia, many of whom have been effected by the disastrous disruptive impact and proliferation of unlicensed music services globally. In these types of discussions, it is easy to focus on big business and top of the ladder rights owners however, the experience of AIR members and the independent Australian artists they represent has not only been indicated by sharp declines in revenue but, despite access to the aforementioned legitimate services, is that their content continues to be exploited without permission and without a revenue return.

It is critical to state that AIR does not seek a system whereby court action is going to be aimed at the individual. This is an unnecessary and cost prohibitive undertaking that does not achieve any real change. It is worth noting that AIR’s membership are by and large financially unable to pursue any cost retrieval that stem from large scale unlicensed use of their rights. It is therefore essential that the necessary legal incentives are implemented so that all parties, rights owners, ISPs and end users, can invest in a framework to outline practical steps to address online copyright infringement.  AIR is not seeking an internet environment that will inhibit users to explore and discover music but does need to assert its members economic rights and interests to pursue legitimate careers knowing that there is a legislative framework that will enable and empower that environment to exist.