ON August 13 the Federal Parliament passed legislation giving effect to the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement.
The agreement’s effects on Australia’s pharmaceutical industry attracted a good deal of media attention but its effects on e-commerce, Australia’s arts, digital multimedia and communications industries did not.
The new legislation makes many significant changes to the copyright laws affecting this sector.
Some significant examples are:
1 Internet service providers and other telecommunications carriage service providers will face broader liability for copyright infringements carried out using the facilities they provide. This will not necessarily be monetary liability but the courts will have increased powers to order ISPs to take action to stop or prevent infringements;
2 A system of ‘take down’ notices will soon be implemented. This will allow copyright owners to give ISPs notice of alleged infringements, demanding that they block infringers from using their facilities. ISPs who ignore such notices will be more likely to incur financial liability for the infringements;
3 Businesses selling or exporting unauthorised devices for decoding encoded broadcasts (such as pay TV broadcasts) will face heavier (in some cases criminal) liability. Private use of such devices will also attract penalties as will the unauthorised re-transmitting of broadcasts decoded using such a device;
4 New criminal penalties will apply to people who infringe copyright on a ‘significant’ scale, even if they do so for private or non-commercial purposes; and
5 Increased protection will be given to information attached to electronic copyright material identifying the material, its author and/or copyright owner, or the terms and conditions upon which the copyright material was provided. In some cases, importing electronic media from which such information has been removed will attract civil liability even if it was imported for non-commercial reasons. Distributing such information without authorisation will also attract liability.
David Thompson, senior associate
Wayne Zappia, restricted practitioner