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The Australian music industry is calling on government to put in place a series of legally-binding incentives that force ISPs to adopt a flexible approach to stem illegal sharing of copyright material.

Strong calls have been made for a multi-tiered approach which involves amending copyright law, seeking to end the flow of advertising revenues to sites which allow for infringements, a site blocking system (which fits with Australia’s obligations in its free trade agreements) and an education campaign to better inform internet users about the illegality of obtaining copyright material via infringing sites.

Each of the peak bodies is resolute that they neither wish for individuals to be sued, nor do they believe in cutting of internet connections by way of remedy.

Responses to the government’s Copyright – Online Infringement proposals have been made by a series of industry bodies including Music Rights Australia, AIR, AMPAL (Music Publishers), Alberts and PPCA.

Each of the differing trade bodies, by and large, joined ranks with Music Rights Australia, which sent in a 64-page response trawling through the fine comb details of the amendments it would like made to current copyright law.

The three main areas Music Rights Australia tackles are: 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 argument here is that CSP should be changed to ISP in law).

MRA, and the wider industry, argues that the proposals government is making to amend the law surrounding extended authorisation liability will leave it further open to interpretation, particularly by ISPs, therefore allowing them to escape any legislative responsibility. It sets out that any mooted changes to copyright law will result in even greater uncertainty. Until this issue is resolved, it says, then it is difficult to amend the latter issue of altering the definition of CSP to ISP, being that they are interdependent.

Meanwhile, the wider music industry is quick to point out that there is, it believes, a common misconception that lack of availability and high price points drive people to illegal content. MRA says, “As the music industry’s experience makes clear, pervasive online copyright infringement is not caused by a lack of availability and affordability of lawful content or a lack of consumer awareness of legitimate services. Other factors, including the ease with which consumers can access unlawful material, are more significant contributors to this problem.” In a country with more than 30 legal music sites it is hard to argue their point.

AMPAL makes a good case for government intervention stating that, unlike the UK, US and Europe where most internet packages are ‘all you can eat’ for one price, “the ISPs currently benefit from the traffic generated from unauthorised hosting sites – particularly when many of the services in Australia are based on a ‘per gigabyte’ usage model.”

AIR, meanwhile, outlines that it 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.” It rightly points out that most of its membership comprises SMEs, who are unable to fight any costly legislative battles.

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