As ISPs Mull Pact To Fight AFACT, Pirate Party Condemns ‘Extortion’

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Following an ultimatum set by AFACT, Australian ISPs have until the close of business today to comply with veiled threats from the big Hollywood studios to help them tackle online piracy, or else. As one ISP confirms it won't respond to threats, another is trying to form a coalition to fend off the movie companies. Pirate Party Australia describes the moves by Hollywood as "extortion".

To many in the business world, using strong-arm tactics against companies whose help you need to achieve your aims is something to be avoided. It creates bad feeling and can be somewhat counter-productive. Issuing threats to potential business partners is hardly an indication that those relationships are going the right way.

Nevertheless, this is the position Australia’s ISPs find themselves in today. They have a written ultimatum from the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft, the anti-piracy group financed by the big Hollywood studios. Received last week, the memo gives the ISPs until close of business today to give their commitment to entering into talks to hinder online file-sharing – or suffer the consequences.

This aggressive approach has already “rubbed up” Exetel boss John Linton “the wrong way”, as Aussies might put it. He has declared that he won’t be responding to AFACT’s threats. Now, according to a new report and contrary to the result hoped for by AFACT, another ISP is trying to form a coalition with its rivals to fend off Hollywood’s demands.

A Telstra spokeswoman quoted by The Australian has confirmed that the ISP is liaising with the Communications Alliance to develop an industry-wide response to AFACT.

“Telstra remains open to discussing how we might assist copyright holders to enforce their private property rights. Given this is an industrywide issue Telstra has encouraged discussions to be facilitated by the Communications Alliance,” she said.

The Communications Alliance was set up to provide a unified voice for the Australian telecommunications industry, offer contributions to policy development and ensure the protection of consumer interests. A spokesperson confirmed that the organization is working with the ISPs to find “an industry-led solution” to online copyright issues.

Rather than adopt ISP suggestions that are unlikely to go far enough for Hollywood, AFACT appears to prefer a fairly aggressive approach to infringement touted by Judge Arthur Emmett during the iiNet trial.

Throwing their 3-cornered hats into the mix, Pirate Party Australia have rejected not only Emmett’s suggestions, but also the manner in which AFACT have approached the ISPs.

“Pirate Party Australia is opposed to the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft’s (AFACT) latest offensive against Australian internet users,” the party said in a statement.

“AFACT’s alleged extreme demands would require ISPs to notify their customers of infringements as alleged by AFACT and disconnect them if they do not respond within 7 days.

“These veiled threats are nothing more than intimidation tactics that once again clearly display the extent that Big Media will go to in their failing attempts to protect their flawed business models. Extortion is a new low even for AFACT,” says Acting Secretary, Brendan Molloy.

“It is completely inappropriate to have closed-room discussions even before the iiNet court case has concluded, and even more inappropriate to make veiled threats to begin yet another court case for not attending these ‘voluntary talks’.”

The party concludes by urging ISPs to unite against AFACT and refuse to become their copyright enforcement officers.

Involving the Communications Alliance in AFACT discussions would seem to be a sensible move by the ISPs. In the light of this development it remains to be seen whether AFACT still feels inclined to go ahead with whatever action lies behind today’s deadline.

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