The Australian government looks set to overhaul the country's copyright laws with a view to force internet service providers to begin cracking down on users who download TV shows and films over torrent clients.
The Pirate Bay is just one of many torrent communities, but it helped us make a boat pun.
(Credit: The Pirate Bay.)
Attorney-General George Brandis has said that the government is considering a graduated response scheme for dealing with online copyright infringement, despite telling ZDNet before the election that the party had no policy to take to the election.
In a wide-ranging speech to the Australian Digital Alliance forum in Canberra this morning, Brandis, who is also the minister for the arts, responded in part to the Australian Law Reform Commission's (ALRC) report on reforming the Copyright Act for the digital age. He said that the Act would be simplified, and technology-specific mentions to outdated technologies such as video tapes removed.
He also hinted that the law would be changed to accommodate international trade agreements, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership currently under negotiation.
"That is particularly important as the Abbott government continues, to number among its signature achievements, the negotiation of free trade agreements with our major trading partners, which, as you all know, contain important provisions concerning copyright and other intellectual property issues," he said.
But the attorney-general said he remains committed to protecting the rights of content owners, and said the government is looking to crack down on online copyright infringement. He said that users downloading TV shows, films, or music over BitTorrent amounts to theft.
"The illegal downloading of Australian films online is a form of theft. I say Australian films, but of course, the illegal downloading of any protected content is a form of theft," he said.
"Some stakeholders have sought the introduction of laws aimed squarely at the scourge of online piracy. While I am sympathetic to their views and am interested in examining new measures that will cut rates of online piracy in Australia, I am not unmindful of the policy challenges of developing the most efficacious regime to do so."
He said that Section 101 of the Copyright Act could potentially be reformed to require ISPs to clamp down on copyright infringement.
"The government will be considering possible mechanisms to provide a 'legal incentive' for an internet service provider to cooperate with copyright owners in preventing infringement on their systems and networks," he said.
"This may include looking carefully at the merits of a scheme whereby ISPs are required to issue graduated warnings to consumers who are using websites to facilitate piracy."
Content owners have been agitating for the government to crack down on online piracy since iiNet defeated the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT) in the High Court in 2012. The court ruled that iiNet has no direct power to prevent its users from using BitTorrent to infringe on copyright, and the notices that AFACT had provided to iiNet were not in a form where it would have been reasonable for iiNet to warn its customers.This story initially appeared on ZDNet. Click here to read more.