Three strike piracy crackdown likely to come into play September 1

The Australian Communications Alliance today submitted the final version of the industry Code designed to "drive down the rate of online copyright infringement" to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). If registered by ACMA, the Copyright Notice Scheme Code will result in a three strike warning system to punish Australian residential fixed-line internet users who allegedly pirated copyrighted material.

A first draft of the code was made available in February and received over 370 public submissions in a response to a call for comment.  The amended code has removed the AUD$25 fee that a user would have to pay to challenge an infringement notice, and now specifies that the Copyright Information Panel will have two representatives from two separate consumer organisations, in addition to two rights holder representatives and two internet service provider (ISP) representatives. The Copyright Information Panel will oversee the operation of the notice scheme.

The Communications Alliance says the scheme has a strong emphasis on education, and will run a website to teach Australians about infringement issues and lawful content alternatives.

The code outlines a process where if a rights holder suspects a user is illegally downloading copyrighted material, they can send the user's ISP a standardised copyright notice within seven days of the activity. The ISP then has to email the user, informing them of the infringement. These notices will work on a three strike model, dubbed Education, Warning and Final. These notices do not have to relate to works owned by the same rights holder. If all three are sent within a 12 month period, the ISP is required to hand over the user's details to the rights holder.

The code also specifies a 14 day quarantine period after a notice is sent, during which no subsequent notices are to be sent. However, the code specifies that a rights holder may refer to infringements committed during this period if they choose to commence legal action. The code is limited to residential fixed-line internet connections, and does not apply to cellular services.

Details such who will bear the costs of the scheme are yet to be clarified, but the Communications Alliance says this will be worked out while ACMA discusses the code.

If registered by ACMA, the code will commence on September 1, and will apply to any ISP with over 1000 Australian residential customers. At present, the Communications Alliance estimates that 70 providers will be subject to the scheme.

The Communications Alliance's announcement follows a landmark ruling – centred on piracy of the film Dallas Buyers Clubwhich will force several Australia ISPs to reveal customers' information to rights holders. The Communications Alliance says that the code was not affected by this ruling in any way. 

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