In what could be described as a filesharer's worst nightmare and the RIAA's sweetest dream, Great Britain and now Australia are debating legislation that seeks to force internet service providers (ISPs) to drop customers whom are found to be downloading copyrighted material.
The International Federation for the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), a media watchdog and parent of the RIAA, championed the efforts. It says that over one billion songs in Australia alone were downloaded illegally, yearly, costing the music industry an untold fortune in revenue.
The new Aussie and British legislation calls for a three strikes policy. A first offense, which the government categorizes as accessing music, TV shows and movies illegally, would result in a warning letter from your ISP. A second offense would result in a temporary suspension of your ISP account. A third strike and you're out -- the ISP would terminate your account.
Australian Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said the Government was aware of the music industry's stance that ISPs should be legally forced to adopt a music industry sanctioned code of conduct. It also is aware of the similar pending British legislation. Conroy states, "We will also examine any UK legislation on this issue [including any three-strikes policy] with particular interest."
Music Industry Piracy Investigations general manager Sabiene Heindl put in over a year of lobbying to try to get the effort through. She says 2.8 million Australians downloaded music illegally last year, and not enough is being done to stop them. She argues, "Because P2P file sharing involves these music files sitting on individual people's computers, there is very little that MIPI can do to remove those files or stop them being shared. That's why we have been pushing a proposal to internet service providers for a commonsense system of warning notices which, if unheeded, would ultimately result in a user having their account suspended or disconnected."
ISPs are unhappy with the move. National Internet Industry Association chief executive Peter Corones plans on airing his constituents’ complaints to Mr. Conroy later this week. Mr. Corones argues that current penalties are "stiff enough". In Australia downloading music can land you injunctions, damages and costs, fines of up to $60,500 for individuals and up to $302,500 for corporations per infringement and up to five years' jail -- nothing to sneeze at. Corones argues, "Internet service providers are not the enforcers of copyright."
The statement is a sharp juxtaposition to ISP policies in the U.S. and abroad. In recent months, it has been revealed that Comcast and other ISPs indeed "police their connections" by throttling P2P traffic, a policy which may be illegal.
The new legislation will likely anger Australia's youth. In a survey of Australians between the ages of 10 and 17, 63 percent felt there was no point paying for music and it should be freely available, mirroring the music industry's worst fears. Unfortunately for these young people, the days of carefree downloading may soon be at an end..