Government fails to deliver policy on internet piracy

After a year of promising to tackle internet piracy, the Abbott Government has still not developed a credible policy to deal with the problem.

The Abbott Government has made it clear it doesn’t understand the internet or its users. Senator Brandis demonstrated this with his complete inability to explain metadata earlier this year. Malcolm Turnbull is about to buy an ageing copper network because he thinks that by 2023 the median household in Australia will only require 15 Mbps.

It is clear that action is needed both to deter piracy, and to encourage access to legitimate content.

The Government has passed the buck back to industry, asking rights holders and ISPs to reach an agreement among themselves. Malcolm Turnbull and George Brandis have still not settled key issues raised in the Discussion Paper they released in September. The Government has not made clear what steps an ISP should take to deter piracy and who will bear the costs of those steps.

The Government’s only concrete decision is to introduce legislation providing for overseas websites facilitating copyright infringement to be blocked in Australia by court order. Site-blocking is unlikely to be an effective strategy for dealing with online piracy. Pirated content is likely to reappear as quickly as it can be taken down.

Any crackdown on the infringement of copyright needs to be accompanied by changes to make copyright law fairer, clearer, and more in keeping with public expectations. The Government should look after the interests of consumers.

However, the Government announced today that it would not proceed with the extension of the copyright safe harbour scheme suggested in the Government’s Discussion Paper, which would appropriately protect organisations like schools and libraries from copyright lawsuits .

The Government has also failed to respond to the Australian Law Reform Commission’s recommendations on updating copyright law for the digital era, including its recommendation for a fair use exception.