Australia's Teleco Industry Wants To Starve Online Pirates Of Revenue

Image: Getty/ Joe Raedle

Telecommunications companies have moved as a group to head off proposals which could force Internet Service Providers to monitor and prevent online copyright piracy.

The industry is seeking regulatory approval to launch a follow-the-money strategy to reduce the economic incentive to infringe copyright in Australia.

The lobby group, the Communications Alliance, has lodged an application with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) for authorisation to allow service providers to collectively agree not to advertise products and services on websites which promote or facilitate online copyright infringement.

The move is backed by the powerful Australian Industry Group which says it’s important the interests of rights holders are addressed but also important that the significant costs of doing so aren’t incurred by broader industry.

John Stanton, the Communications Alliance CEO, says the move is a practical example of internet service providers’ willingness to help rights holders tackle the infringement problem.

“We have real concerns about some of the proposals being put forward by government at present,” he says.

“But a follow-the-money approach is a concrete strategy that will reduce the volume of advertising funds to web-sites that promote or facilitate infringement and thereby reduce their viability.”

The government’s Online Copyright Infringement discussion paper has proposals which would force internet service providers to take “reasonable steps” to monitor and prevent copyright infringement by users.

However, the latest industry proposal points to a trial of the follow-the-money strategy in the UK which generated an immediate 12% reduction in the advertising revenue flowing to a list of infringing websites.

The London Police have been working with brands, media agencies and ad networks to ensure advertising revenue is not directed to the websites.

In July this year the police announced they had begun replacing legitimate brand advertisements on the targeted websites with official police force pop-up banners which inform visitors the site is under investigation for copyright infringement.

Communications Alliance first raised the prospect of an Australian-industry-led follow-the-money strategy in its submission last month in response to the Government’s discussion paper on online copyright infringement.

A united approach by ISPs could contravene the Competition and Consumer Act, 2010 (CCA).

“The authorisation we are seeking from the ACCC, if granted, would enable ISPs and others to join the strategy without fear of breaking competition laws,” Stanton says.

The Communications Alliance has started discussions with the Federal Government about how to create and maintain an Australian list of infringing web-sites.

Industry believes the list needs to be managed independently of service providers and rights holders.

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