The ongoing fight over online piracy in Australia stepped up a notch this week, as Attorney General George Brandis and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull issued a statement setting up a new anti-piracy regime.

Pirates beware.

What’s the gist?

  1. The Government is forcing ISPs and rights holders to develop an industry code to address:
    1. ISPs taking steps to deter infringement when they are made aware of pirating, such as an education and warning notice scheme; and
    2. a process for discovery to assist rights holders in taking Court action against a subscriber after an agreed number of notices.

Basically, if you get a few notices and you don’t stop pirating you’ll be handed over to the rights holders and the courts to be dealt with.

  1. If the code cannot be agreed by 8 April 2015, the Government will step in and take over. The clear message to the ISPs and rights holders it to make friends, or Dad is going to step in and make rules which neither of you might like.
  2. Courts will be given the power to block overseas websites which facilitate online copyright infringement. Watch out Pirate Bay.

George and Malcolm have also said they will review the effectiveness of any code or standard within 18 months of it coming into effect. If it’s no good Dad may step in again.

This is pretty big news. It is recognition of the problems that rights holders and ISPs have had in finding common ground on how better to deal with infringing subscribers and the widespread availability of pirated content online.

The fact that it will be implemented as an industry code is important - ISPs will be bound by it. It is also sending a clear message to pirates that the Government is serious about tackling the issue and it expects ISPs to assist in monitoring pirates on their networks. The Government has firmly planted its flag in the camp of the rights holders, for now anyway.