Civil liberties group Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) is calling for a halt to the introduction of the Copyright Notice Scheme, under which ISPs will send copyright infringement notices to their customers.
The scheme, which the government in December 2014 requested rights holders and ISPs develop, will require ISPs to match IP addresses provided by rights holders of alleged copyright infringers with their customers and send them a notice of infringement.
EFA said determining whether the ISP or the content distributor will bear the cost burden of the scheme remains unresolved.
"The current government, which is ostensibly committed to deregulation, must accept the reality that finding a consensus on the cost burden of a copyright notice scheme is simply not possible,” EFA’s executive officer, Jon Lawrence, said in a statement.
"It must also realise that legislating to impose such a scheme will only add another layer of unnecessary regulation on to Australia's ISP sector, which is already struggling with the government's overly-hasty and inadequately-prepared data retention legislation.”
EFA wants the government to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of the scheme to see if it's really necessary or if it’s causing more regulatory burden.
The issue of online copyright infringement is mostly a result of Australians having to resort to illegal downloading in order to access content in a timely and affordable manner and not be disadvantaged compared to North American and European consumers, EFA said.
EFA cited Telsyte research showing 2 million Australians had subscribed to streaming video-on-demand services at the end of June 2013, with Choice research showing a decline in consumers regularly downloading content illegally mainly due to increased availability of Netflix-style services in Australia.
Ernst and Young's Global Digital Media Attractiveness Index also found delays in access to new content is the main reason why Australia has the second highest rate of illegal downloading activity behind Russia.
“The majority of online copyright infringement in Australia is demonstrably driven by market failures, and the market is, finally, addressing those shortcomings,” EFA said.
“International experience shows that copyright notice schemes are of marginal value at best in addressing online copyright infringement,” EFA said, citing a Monash University paper that examines and evaluates such schemes in France, New Zealand, Taiwan, South Korea, Ireland and the US.
The law means content rights holders can apply for a Federal Court order to force ISPs to block their customers from accessing a website that is engaging in or facilitating copyright infringement.
EFA said a case showing this law is necessary has still not yet been presented.
“It's time for the government to get out of the way and allow the market to evolve."
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