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Oz A-G to host ISPs and copyright industry in ‘three strikes’ confab

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Australia’s attorney-general Robert McClelland will host what could be a very uncomfortable meeting in September, with the copyright industry on one side of the table, and ISPs on the other.

According to The Australian, the death-match industry consultation is designed to “gauge the views of key stakeholders” about copyright enforcement in Australia.

It could be argued that “key stakeholders” had already made their views well-known. On the one side, there’s the roll-call of copyright industry heavyweights lined up behind Village Roadshow as plaintiffs against iiNet, with a High Court appeal seeking to put the onus on ISPs to enforce “grauduated responses” to alleged infringement.

On the other side, ISPs and carriers have been critical both of the copyright industry’s proposals and its tactics, which Exetel described earlier this year as “bullying”. Earlier this year, Telstra stated that copyright law reform should be held in abeyance until the movie industry’s High Court appeal is decided.

The report in The Australian says the copyright industry line-up will include the overlapping Australian Content Industry Group, the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT), and the Digital Entertainment Alliance Australia*.

New Zealand’s “three strikes” law, enacted amid heavy criticism and some confusion, is still being held up as a model for Australia by the content industries. The law appears to please nobody, with ISPs still worried about the burdens it may carry, and the copyright industry resentful at the $NZ25-per-notice ISPs can charge to forward copyright infringement notifications to customers.

Attorney-general McClelland has told both sides that the government would prefer an industry response rather than legislation. This, however, would almost certainly hinge on the outcome of the High Court action: if the court decides to retain the “safe harbour” immunity that is the current status quo, ISPs have little incentive to co-operate, and calls for legislation would almost certainly grow louder.

Telstra has confirmed that it will attend the meeting, while Optus is believed to have received an invitation but has yet to comment. ®

El Reg: *The Digital Entertainment Alliance Australia’s membership creates a conflict of interest for journalists. Its membership includes the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, presumably because that union represents actors. It also represents journalists, but as far as this writer is aware, journalists were never asked if they wanted to take sides in a current and highly controversial debate. ®

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