Brandis to Reignite the iiTrial Phoenix

Image of a pair of pirates swordfighting with cutlasses.

Attorney General George Brandis has startled precisely nobody by being reported in today's The Australian as starting a new copyright war.   

Media has learned that the Attorney-General's Department has sent letters to the nation's top telcos and content creators seeking their participation in a series of industry roundtables to resolve the online piracy issue as a matter of urgency. New Attorney-General George Brandis is understood to have made copyright piracy a priority.

Brandis has flagged this from a long way out.  Before this year's federal election he had made comments about "coming down on the side of artists" in the copyright debate (despite the fact it has little to do with them), and the comments were easy to interpret as a shot over the bow of people who engage in piracy - an activity which is still not illegal in Australia.

What path precisely Brandis will follow is unclear. Sending letters to the top telcos and content creators will be fruitless because the content creators have a dogmatic belief they can't let go that Internet Service Providers can and should stop copyright infringement by their customers, and the ISP's have a High Court of Australia precedent showing that they won't.  The matter was decided finally when a posse assembled by Village Roadshow - a $142,000 Coalition election donor in 2011/2012 - was defeated in a widely publicised case against iiNet.  That case didn't fail a little bit or on a technicality, key points within it showed that the media industry rounded up many of its assertions and got more than one Judge Judy moment in response. If a round table occurs it'll be yet another instance of the content lobby yelling at ISPs and ISPs laughing themselves into a hiccup fit.

With no legal impediment to personal file sharing and the commercial responsibility sunk to the bottom of the ocean by the high court it's difficult to understand where Brandis is heading.  Upcoming trade agreement negotiations could push for legislative change to harmonise the legality of piracy with trade partners (notably the United States).  Perhaps the attorney general wants to show that he's tried to be reasonable first in having a forum on the matter.

Note:  The Australian article is restricted to subscribers only, however if you open your browser's "private mode" and search for the headline of the article on Google, you will be referred to the full article in The Australian when you click the result.  This is because the paper wants to protect its revenue with a paywall, but is unwilling to defer traffic from people searching search-engines for news because it's the de facto standard for surfacing news.  Perhaps they'll seek an industry round table with the attorney general to understand how they can be more profitable.

Image: eschipul