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Australia Readies Three Strikes Anti-Piracy Measures

Australian telecom operators on Wednesday published the final draft of a new “three strikes” code that will allow punishment of illegal downloaders.

The Copyright Notice Scheme Code 2015 was drafted and submitted by the telcos’ lobby organization Communications Alliance to regulator Australian Communications and Media Authority.

If approved, it will allow copyright owners to create lists of infringing IP addresses and for letters to be sent to the users. If a user gets three letters in a 12 month period, the Internet Service Provider will be required to help the copyright owners identify the user, who can then be tried in a designated court.

The draft code was published barely a day after an Australian court made a landmark ruling in the case of Dallas Buyers Club LLC against two providers, iiNet and M2, saying that the ISPs must reveal the identities of over 4,000 infringing users. The Communications Alliance said that the timing was coincidental.

The Communications Alliance says that the draft code is full of privacy protection measures and said that warning letters are intended to be educational, rather that threatening. Moreover, a maximum of 200,000 letters per year can be sent by the copyright owners.

However, the telcos hope that they have done enough to prevent new legislation from being introduced into parliament that would make ISPs specifically responsible for the illegal downloading activities of their customers. Some civil rights organizations have suggested that legislation would be a more transparent system than the industry’s self-regulating code.

Levels of illegal movie downloading are particularly high in Australia, and courts have until recently largely sided with the Internet companies in cases brought by the MPA on behalf of the Hollywood studios and other local rights holders.

In many instances, ISPs have argued that the entertainment industry has created problems for itself by not effectively making content available in a legal fashion. The ISPs argued too that release dates in Australian theaters and Australian online sites came too far behind U.S. releases and broadcasts, thus creating an incentive for users to seek out illegal content that is available earlier. Still others argue that services Down Under cheat Australian consumers by charging higher prices than comparable U.S. video services.

The last years, however, have undermined those arguments. Australia has seen the arrival of multiple new online video platforms including Stan, Presto, EzyFlix.tv and Quickflix. In March, Netflix launched in Australia and New Zealand as well.

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