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Three strikes policy for pirates back on the table

​The Federal Government could be set to move to a 'three strikes' policy on internet piracy, requiring ISPs to target repeat offenders with warnings on copyright infringement.

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Image by Jaskirat Singh Bawa, CC BY-ND 2.0

The Australian battle over piracy and intellectual property has long been a three-way conversation between ISPs, content providers and creators, and the Federal Government. The conversation saw a major shift in April 2012, when the High Court of Australia ruled that ISP iiNet was not required to police piracy perpetrated by its customers.

The Attorney-General George Brandis has now been questioned on the Federal Government's policy by West Australian Senator and Greens communications spokesperson Scott Ludlam. Speaking in a session of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee this week, Ludlam questioned whether Brandis had met with consumer groups to discuss public interest in the issue of copyright infringement.

According to ZDNet reports, Brandis said the public's major concern was protecting copyright.

"There is a very strong public interest in the protection of private property, and that includes the protection of intellectual property," Brandis said.

The assistant secretary for the Attorney-General's Department Andrew Walter went further by saying that a graduated response policy on copyright infringement (whereby offenders are sent warning notices on piracy before being penalised) would be "one option" considered by the Government.

"A lot of the pressure on the ISPs to come to the table went away because the ISPs had a very comprehensive victory in the iiNet case," Walter said. "Since the iiNet judgment came down, there has been less willingness from some ISPs to come to the table."

However, ZDNet's Josh Taylor reported that Walter singled out Telstra (part owner of pay TV company Foxtel) as an ISP that was looking to address the issue.

"Only earlier in the month I had a very long conversation with [Telstra CEO David] Thodey and [Telstra's director of government relations James] Shaw. If I may say so publicly, I think Telstra's contribution to this issue, and their willingness to work to find a solution to the piracy issue -- which is really unaddressed in Australia -- has been very commendable."

For his part, iiNet Chief Regulatory Officer Steve Dalby has been critical of any push by Governments or content providers for ISPs to be responsible for cracking down on piracy.

"The rights holders are still insisting ISP's should perform work on their behalf instead of addressing what we have always said is the root cause of the infringements -- the limited accessibility to desirable content and the discriminatory and high cost of content in Australia," Dalby said.

"Infringements are a symptom -- access is the problem."

For a full insight Brandis' comments and the Federal Government's approach to copyright infringement, check out Josh Taylor's analysis on ZDNet.