Copyright and National Security Update
The telecommunications industry faces simultaneous policy and implementation challenges concerning, Data Retention, telecommunications infrastructure security, the planned Copyright Notice Scheme industry code of practice and proposed web site-blocking legislation.
Speaking at the Comms Day Summit in Sydney on 21 April, Communications Alliance CEO, John Stanton provided a status update on the four key legislative and co-regulatory initiatives issues facing service providers in the national security and online copyright space. These included:
1. Data Retention
The legislation, requiring retention of a broad set of customer usage data by service providers for a two year period, passed the Senate on 26 March. Royal Assent was received on 13 April and the majority of the Act takes effect on 13 October. Data Retention Implementation Plans (DRIPs) must be approved by that date.
The industry is awaiting guidance from Government on the size of the contribution it has undertaken to make to the capital expenses that service providers will incur, and on the way that the Government intends to share this contribution among the many affected service providers.
An Experts Working Group of service provider representatives is working with Government on the detail of:
- an Implementation Plan Template;
- examples of data components that will need to be retained in respect of commonly provided services;
- the exemption provisions under the new Act; and
- the requirement for retained data to be encrypted.
2. Telecommunications Sector Security Reform (TSSR)
The Government has indicated it will introduce this legislation later in 2015. It will provide a regime to monitor the ability of key telecommunications infrastructure to resist external cyber attack.
Industry has expressed concern about the Government’s proposal to create a levy on industry – of between $1.5 and $2 million p.a. – to fund the employment of additional Government staff to run the scheme.
Industry is also concerned about a mooted Labor amendment to this legislation that would require that all data retained by service providers be stored onshore.
3. Copyright Notice Scheme Code
As per the Government directive in December 2014, Communications Alliance and its members worked with right holders and other stakeholders to draft a Copyright Notice Scheme Code, which was submitted to the Australian Communications and Media Authority on 8 April for registration.
The Code provides for up to three notices to be sent within a year to fixed residential broadband customers in repose to allegations from rights holders of copyright infringement. The Code does not provide for sanctions against customers but does include a facilitated preliminary discovery process whereby persistent alleged infringers may (pursuant to a court order) have their details provided to rights holders, who may choose to pursue legal action.
The commercial agreement between rights holders and ISPs, which will underlie the Code and fund its operation, is still under negotiation.
The Code provides for up to 200,000 notices per annum to be sent to customers and is planned to commence on or before 1 September 2015.
4. Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015
The Government introduced this legislation in April 2015. It provides for a regime whereby rights holders would be able to seek court injunctions requiring ISPs to block access to off-shore web-sites that are primarily designed to facilitate the infringement of online copyright through technology such as “Bit Torrent” file sharing.
Communications Alliance and its members support the underlying objectives of the Bill but consider it deficient in several respects and have made a submission to the Senate Committee enquiring into the Bill, including detailed recommendations for improvement to it.