AFACT Accused of Extorting ISPs to Import Three Strikes Law to Australia

Some interesting things coming out of Australia this week. It seems that AFACT (Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft) is attempting to pressure ISPs into implementing a three strikes law for Australian internet users. That has the Australian Pirate Party crying foul.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

We turn things to Australia where tension between international corporate entities and Australian ISPs are growing. Things are not going well for AFACT in the courts and that has left AFACT seeking other options to get ISPs to agree to a three strikes deal. According to Delimiter, AFACT sent letters to ISPs demanding that they meet their “obligations”.

From that report:

One local ISP to receive the letter was Exetel, which in comparison with other ISPs, already has a number of provisions in its agreement with its customers that are favourable to content owners. For example, the ISP has committed to forwarding any copyright infringement notices received to customers. If three or more such notices are received, or if Exetel “reasonably suspects” that a customer is infringing copyright, and the customer fails to provide a valid defence for their activity, Exetel reserves the right to disconnect customers’ connections.

So, clearly, AFACT is pressuring ISPs to get them to agree to disconnecting users based on mere accusations of copyright infringement. Judging by this paragraph, it’s very likely the three strikes law we have seen in France and seeing in New Zealand to name just two examples.

In a more recent article on Delimiter, it seems that the Pirate Party of Australia has decried what they consider “extortion”.

The comments of the Pirate Party of Australia can also be found on their homepage as well.

“These veiled threats are nothing more than intimidation tactics that once again clearly display the extent that Big Media will go to in their failing attempts to protect their flawed business models. Extortion is a new low even for AFACT.” said Acting Secretary, Brendan Molloy.

“It is completely inappropriate to have closed-room discussions even before the iiNet court case has concluded, and even more inappropriate to make veiled threats to begin yet another court case for not attending these ‘voluntary talks’.”

There’s two possibilities as to why this is happening now. The first possibility is that the court case is not going well at all for AFACT. Sweating over the outcome, AFACT may be trying to use new tactics to make sure they don’t get a judgement they don’t want. If both sides agree to AFACTs demands, there probably wouldn’t be much of a reason to continue on with court proceedings.

The other possibility is that AFACT got some inspiration from the US’s new agreed upon ‘6 strike’ regime which we did discuss at length before. It’s entirely possible that AFACT has taken some insight in to the backroom deal going on between ISPs and the copyright industry in the US and imported them to Australia, hoping that they will get a similar outcome.

Regardless of how we got to this point in Australia, there doesn’t seem to be any effort to address existing problems seen everywhere else. A three strikes regime still violates international obligations to free speech, it is still a fundamentally flawed method of identifying the correct person and it is still a bad idea both politically and on the public relations front.

Ironically, I see this certainly helping the Pirate Party even if this isn’t something being codified in to law because a number of people will see how corporate interests are circumventing government to effectively put laws in place that stifles their freedom. So, this can all very well be made in to a political issue anyway whether or not politicians want to touch this with a ten foot barge pole.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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