While details of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) negotiations have now been made public, internet service providers remain concerned that they’ll end up being legally required to monitor their customers’ internet usage, at their own expense, and that the good work already done in this country on copyright protection will be lost.
The international ACTA talks, aimed at getting a strong agreement on countering illicit downloading of copyright material, have been shrouded in secrecy until now. Political pressure, particularly from European countries, forced the US (as the leader of the talks) to set aside security concerns and allow the draft text of the negotiations to be made public (read it at tinyurl.com/23m5m6k – Adobe Reader required).
But European ISPs claim their concerns are being ignored, in favour of heavy lobbying from the entertainment industry – a view shared by the Internet Service Providers Association of New Zealand (ISPANZ).
Andrew Cushen, a director of ISPANZ, told NetGuide that ACTA could require ISPs to police their customers, to see if they are downloading copyright material (eg: music and videos) from unauthorised sources. If they don’t do this, they run the risk of being held liable for infringements detected over their networks.
“We don’t have the tools, the expertise or probably even the desire to monitor and enforce customer standards of behaviour on our networks,” Cushen said. “We do believe there have to be fair and reasonable policies and procedures for enforcing copyright, but those policies need to give customers a fair chance to argue how they weren’t infringing, rather than it just being guilt upon accusation.”
A key issue for ISPs is the work already done to modify Section 92A of the Copyright Act, now before Parliament as the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing Amendment) Bill. The revised Act allows for an independent adjudicator in disputed cases of infringement and requires the same level of proof as a court of law.
“We’ve been through a process that has reached a far more acceptable compromise and a far more workable solution for all the parties concerned,” Cushen said. “The fear here is that the ACTA process will override that domestic policy process and instead force us back to a less acceptable position than that which we’ve reached.”
Cushen says requiring ISPs to monitor their customers would pose a “very significant” cost which would have to be passed on, and would also be “likely to degrade the performance of our networks”.