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Australian Government Flags Copyright Law Changes, Some Good, Some Not So Good

Posted by: , 16:54 AEDT, Sat October 15, 2011

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The Australian government wants to make it easier for rights holders and mass lawsuit firms to obtain information of suspected copyright infringers under new proposed changes to the copyright law

The embattled Labour government in Australia is planning to roll out copyright reforms that will make it easier for firms engaged in mass copyright lawsuits to gain the identity of file sharers, but will also give ISPs and website operators more protection against actions made by their users.

Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland spoke at a conference organised by the pro-copyright lobby and detailed these proposed changes, and also made reference to recent agreements in the United States made between content owners and ISPs in regards to 'graduated response', whereby an user's Internet connection is limited or cut off after a set number of copyright infringement allegations have been made against the user.

McClelland wants a more streamlined process for rights holders to obtain the personal details of Internet account holders whose IP address has been identified as taking part in unauthorised file sharing. Rights holders, after obtaining the information, can proceed with lawsuits or, more likely, force users to pay a settlement fee, usually in the thousands of dollars, to make the case go away. The government may even attempt to bring in their own 'graduated response' system, by banning repeat offenders from the Internet.

The Australian wing of the Pirate Party has condemned the government's proposed plans, calling these changes "completely unjustified". 

"Any system that seeks to limit, suspend or terminate access to the Internet, is completely disproportionate and violates fundamental rights and freedoms. We completely reject any move in this direction," added Pirate Party Australia president Rodney Serkowski.

However, not all of the government's proposal was met with disgust from The Pirate Party, which will probably be met with scorn from the government's own informal junior partner, The Greens. McClelland also proposed extending "safe harbour" protection to more than just ISPs, by including the likes of Bing and Google under the protection of the provision. However, the Pirate Party's Serkowski says that while his party welcomes such an extension, he feels the extension should be further extended to protect more types of websites, and also to protect moderated web forum owners from libellous statement made by forum members.


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