Oz updates video copyright laws

Overhaul in favor of catching online pirates

Australia has overturned decades-old copyright laws that criminalized videotaping of TV shows but will step up efforts to catch Internet pirates.

Announcing the copyright overhaul, Attorney General Philip Ruddock said the changes were “common sense” and allowed Aussie law to “keep pace with technology.”

The previous law made criminals of just about every Australian who videotaped a show.

However, while the change gets rid of one arcane, almost-impossible-to-enforce law, it includes another: You may watch the TV recording just once, and then you must dispose of it. It is also illegal to lend the recorded show to a friend.

Laws also legalize “format shifting,” allowing consumers to transfer CDs to iPods or other MP3 players.

But the flipside of the change is that the government plans to get tougher on pirates. “Everyday consumers shouldn’t be treated like copyright pirates,” said Ruddock. “And copyright pirates should not be treated like everyday consumers.”

New powers will include on-the-spot fines, larger damage payouts and a change in presumptions in litigation to make it easier to establish copyright piracy. Research into the breadth of the piracy problem has been commissioned from the Australian Institute of Criminology, which will look into other measures to combat it.

The government will ask the AIC to investigate reports that organized crime is stepping up its involvement in Aussie piracy.

As previously announced, feevee piracy also becomes a crime under the new laws.

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