Uni CIOs call for greater copyright law protection

Solution to copyright infringement is not legislation, but low cost alternatives

In the wake of the AFACT versus iiNet decision, and the pending Federal Court appeal, university CIOs are calling for more legal protection from potential cases of copyrighted content distribution on their networks.

The Council of Australian University Directors of Information Technology (CAUDIT) held a videoconference, hosted by AARNet, to discuss the implications for universities were the iiNet decision to be overturned next month.

About 20 universities participated in the conference, with 16 high-definition screens linked across a 10Gbps link.

The conference chair, Internet Industry Association (IIA) chief executive Peter Coroneos, said universities don’t have the same safeguards as ISPs and may be exposed if the decision were overturned.

“Today universities, content portals, social networking sites and even corporate nets that provide access services for third parties are not covered under the safe harbour act,” Coroneos said.

“In the US, it is fundamentally different where there is such thing as an ‘online service provider’. This is a significant and glaring oversight and needs to be rectified.”

In a worst case scenario, universities challenged over copyright infringement on their networks would not be able to argue whether they should be held liable.

About 30 people, mostly CIOs, participated in the videoconference.

“AARNet itself has been classified as a carriage service provider and so would have safe harbour protection,” Coroneos said. “It’s the interface with the user and the university network and what activities occur there.

“The peak body for universities, Universities Australia, is calling for more safe harbour and equal protection for equal liability. Now there is no liability, but if that were overturned they want equal protection.”

Coroneos said it would be difficult for the Federal Government not to support more protection for copyright infringement that occurred on university networks.

“Universities do and will have acceptable use policies, but the outcome will cause a complete rethink,” he said, adding CIOs need to understand how to manage the risk.

He believes the long-term solution to copyright infringement is not legislation, but low cost alternatives that will move the market to better support content creators.

“We need a degree of cultural change as the culture is reacting to the economic issue,” he said. “Sometimes people have no legal means of accessing content in Australia.”

Coroneos said even in today’s “TV through ISPs” environment, the content people need to come to the party and make their content more accessible to more people otherwise infringement will remain a problem.

In November, the Federal Court rejected an application by the IIA to be heard in the trial between iiNet and AFACT, ruling its submission irrelevant.

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