Consumers to face unlimited fines, legal action and excessive fees under copyright “education” scheme

CHOICE is warning that a proposed scheme requiring internet service providers (ISPs) to send ‘education’ notices to customers could lead to massive and disproportionate punishments.
The scheme, which was developed by the internet industry under pressure from the government, proposes a heavy handed industry-run crack down to combat illegal downloads including:

  • Unlimited fines;
  • Legal action; and
  • Fees for consumers to challenge a notice they think is unfair.

4573803385_f0b0595635_m“This scheme sets up a David versus Goliath struggle, letting corporate giants such as Foxtel and Village Roadshow Limited use their legal force against everyday Australians,” says CHOICE Campaigns Manager Erin Turner.

“While the industry is trying to sell this as a no-penalty education scheme, it will actually help them funnel Australians into litigation by forcing ISPs hand over customer details based on unproven accusations.”

“This is no gentle education program. It’s a flawed notice scheme that gives rights holders access to personal details. ISPs will send up to three notices based on rights holder accusations. After this, they can pass on personal customer details to the rights holders.”

“This scheme will likely see Australians being either sued or contacted by rights holders demanding arbitrary payments. This is particularly concerning because under Australian law, there is no limit to the amount of money that can be sought by a rights holder for copyright infringement.”

“We could see developments like those in the United States, where a student was recently ordered to pay $675,000 for downloading and sharing 30 songs.”

“Alternatively, in the UK we have seen examples of rights holders using customer contact details to send bullying letters demanding fines of hundreds of dollars.”

“Of course, no-one should be illegally downloading movies or TV shows but this scheme is out of all proportion and continues to ignore the real driver of piracy, which is the lack of access to affordable content. On top of this, ISPs and rights holders want to charge you $25 to challenge any notice that they’ve sent you.”

CHOICE is also criticising the proposed Code for only allowing consumers to complain after they have received all three notices. Complaints have to be directed to the allegedly independent Adjudication Panel, a body whose representatives will be appointed by ISPs and rights holders with some input from consumer representatives.

“We do not want to see a scheme in Australia that removes ordinary procedural fairness from the court process and instead funnels consumers into litigation with sky-high penalties.”

“The lack of affordable, available content in Australia is a major driver of consumer behaviour. We believe there is a smarter solution than this industry notice scheme. Better access and more competitive prices for digital content should be the first step to tackle online piracy.”                 

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