Improved media distribution models and partnerships with internet service providers (ISPs), rather than the threat of legal action, should be the method by which copyright holders stop their content from travelling over public Wi-Fi networks, according to iiNet and Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA).
The Communications Alliance paper, released on 28 May, warned that public Wi-Fi and mobile operators could be subject to litigation by copyright holders if there was evidence network users had illegally downloaded material.
"Digital rights owners have been looking to change the behaviour of end users who infringe copyright via online activities including peer-to-peer file sharing," the paper reads.
"Not withstanding the recent judgement by the High Court of Australia in the case Roadshow Films Pty Ltd and Others v iiNet Ltd, pressure on users of fixed networks in this regard might continue and could be extended to mobile and/or Wi-Fi networks in future."
The paper warns that at present, ISPs could be held responsible for an end user accessing prohibited content via a Wi-Fi network as they could be held to have a legal responsibility for identifying copyright infringers.
"Similarly the nature of the interaction between Wi-Fi network operators and service providers with law enforcement agencies (LEAs) has not been tested," the paper warns. "This is in contrast to standing arrangements that exist between LEAs and both licensed carriers and content service providers [CSPs]."
In response to the warnings, iiNet chief regulatory officer, Steve Dalby, told Computerworld Australia that the ISP did not condone copyright infringements on any of its networks, which include public Wi-Fi hotspots, and would co-operate with rights holders to mitigate against infringement.
“Any such arrangements need to be mutually agreed,” he said. “For the iiNet group that means genuine due process and cost allocation of where the benefits fall,” he said.
However, Dalby added that rights holders could not expect the ISP to “do their work for them.”
“The courts support that position, the recent judgement [in the High Court of Australia] means that our negotiating position may have changed, but we are still engaged in discussions,” he said.
In April this year, The High Court of Australia in Canberra dismissed an appeal by 34 film and television companies, led by Roadshow Films, against iiNet over alleged copyright infringement.
According to Dalby, infringement was not the problem; it was the symptom of an ineffective and out-dated business model, such as staggered movie and television program release dates, used by entertainment rights holders.
“Modifying the business model is more important than choking distribution channels to stop Internet access,” he said.
“It doesn't make much difference to these principles if the service is delivered over free Wi-Fi or gigabit National Broadband Network [NBN].”
A Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA) spokesperson said the ISP industry needed to work together to address issues such as copyright infringement with the Communications Alliance.
“We acknowledge the outcome of the High Court decision that found that iiNet were not liable for 'authorising' the conduct of its customers who engaged in online copyright infringement,” he said.
“We also recognise that the ISP industry needs to work with content owners to ensure that copyright material is used appropriately,” he said.
"It’s about making things easier for content owners to legitimately sell their content online and what sort of avenues are open to them in mobile or fixed broadband environments.”
Primus and Telstra declined to comment while Optus did not respond at the time of writing.
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