For years Australian citizens have complained of being treated as second class citizens by content companies who have failed to make content freely available at a fair price. As a result millions of Aussies have turned to file-sharing networks for their media fix.
This has given the country somewhat of a reputation on the world stage, which in turn has put intense pressure on the Australian government to do something to reduce unlawful usage.
After years of negotiations between ISPs and entertainment companies went nowhere, last year the government stepped in. ISPs were warned that if they don’t take voluntarily measures to deter and educate pirating subscribers, the government would force a mechanism upon them by law.
With a desire to avoid that option at all costs, the service providers went away with orders to come up with a solution. Just last month Attorney-General George Brandis and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull set an April 8 deadline, a tight squeeze considering the years of failed negotiations.
Nevertheless, iiNet, Australia’s second largest ISP, feels that the deadline will be met.
“We will have code; whether or not it gets the rubber stamp remains to be seen,” says iiNet chief regulatory officer Steve Dalby. “Dedicated people are putting in a lot of work drafting documents and putting frameworks together.”
With just 120 days to come up with a solution the government’s deadline is a big ask and Dalby says there are plenty of complications.
“There are issues around privacy, there are issues around appeals. There are issues around costs. There is a lot of work that needs to be done,” he says.
Of course, these are exactly the same issues that caused talks to collapse on a number of occasions in the past. However, in recent months it’s become clear that the government is prepared to accept less stringent measures than the entertainment industries originally wanted. Slowing and disconnecting subscribers is now off the table, for example.
Although there has been no official announcement, it seems likely that the ISPs will offer a notice-and-notice system similar to the one being planned for the UK.
Subscribers will be informed by email that their connections are being used to share content unlawfully and will be politely but firmly asked to stop. An educational program, which advises users where to obtain content legally, is likely to augment the scheme.
Who will pay for all this remains to be seen. ISPs have previously refused to contribute but with the government threatening to impose a code if a suitable one is not presented, compromise could be on the table.