'Three strikes' advocates try different tack

Dylan Bushell-Embling
27 Mar 2009

Copyright holders worldwide have been pushing for legislation that would see repeated copyright infringers disconnected from the internet, but with limited success so far.

Content industry groups had convinced the New Zealand government to introduce such a law, but it was scrapped for reworking this week after ISPs and rights holders failed to agree on a code of conduct.

The European parliament has also been under pressure to reword a bill to pave the way for “three strikes” legislation, in a movement spearheaded by France, but Europe's parliament voted down the amendment. The French government nevertheless said it would proceed with the introduction of its own “three strikes” policy.

Content groups have also been pushing to have these laws introduced in the UK, but the government has scrapped such a plan.

The Australian content industry appears to be trying a different strategy. The communications minister last year said the government was considering a “three strikes” policy, but copyright holders were clearly not satisfied to just wait and see.

A consortium led by major movie studios took Australian ISP iiNet to court this week, claiming it had failed to disconnect customers accused of piracy.

Yet the group's barrister admitted he could not give a “yes or no” answer as to whether it technically possible for iiNet to confirm whether a specific user was downloading an infringing file at a specific time.

The consortium's aim is clearly to force ISPs to disconnect accused pirates or risk being sued for large sums of money.

It's a strategy content groups have already tried in Ireland, but without much success. Irish operator Eircom was forced to settle with rights groups out of court, and has agreed to instituteits own “three strikes” policy. Rights groups warned other Irish ISPs that they could face legal action if they don't follow suit.

Yet the majority of members of the Internet Service Providers in Ireland group have voted to snubthis call.

Regardless of how much success rights holders have with governments and operators over “three strikes” legislation, it certainly won't win them many supporters among the general public. But that seems to be a risk they are happy to take.

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