The Australian government has signalled it is looking at a "three strikes" legislation that would see constant illegal files downloaders lose their Internet access.

Under the proposal -- similar to a plan being considered by the British government -- an illegal file sharer will be given a warning. This will be followed by a suspension of Internet access, and then cancellation. The law would require Internet service providers (ISPs) to monitor traffic on their networks.

"We will examine any U.K. legislation on this issue," communications minister, Stephen Conroy told a radio show here.

The Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) maintains that 2.8 million Australians downloaded music and movie files illegally in 2007.

In its discussions over the past 12 months with the government and ISPs, ARIA has proposed the three-strikes policy as a weapon in battling piracy.

"It's a highly compelling proposal," ARIA chief executive Stephen Peach tells Billboard.biz. "It benefits labels and artists. It benefits the ISPs because it helps reduce costly traffic. It's also the best for the community because it avoids the negative fall-out from individual lawsuits against illegal file-sharers that has taken place (in other parts of) the world. I sincerely hope we can avoid that in Australia, and we'd follow that path only as the last resort."

Peach maintains that ARIA would prefer to formulate a voluntary code of conduct with ISPs, than rely on legislation. ARIA would monitor the traffic, and ISPs would issue warning letters and suspend/cancel access.

The ISPs however have been reluctant to adopt the policy, or take responsibility for illegal operations on their networks. National Internet Industry Association chief executive Peter Corones says that present legislation already covers copyright infringement, and these should be used against illegal downloaders.

These include fines of up to A$60,500 ($55,900) for individuals, and up to A$302,500 ($279,267) for corporations per infringement plus a maximum five-year jail term.

"Our job is not to enforce copyright," Corones says.

Peach hopes that moves by the Australian -- and U.K. -- governments to contemplate legislation on the issue might see the ISPs become increasingly receptive to a voluntary code.

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