Australia’s ‘Three-Strikes’ Debate Heats Up As Consumer Rights Campaigners Warn of ‘Digital Dark Ages’

The Australian government’s proposed anti-piracy measures have been blasted by a consumer rights watchdog which is warning that a "three-strikes" policy would force-up the price of Internet access.

Choice Magazine, the publication of the Australian Consumers Association, has launched a petition calling on its readers to urge government to back-away from a graduated response system.

George Brandis, who serves in the dual role of attorney-general and minister for the arts, recently announced strict new measures aimed at curbing online piracy. In a Feb. 14 speech, Brandis raised the possibility of a "graduated response" scheme and an Internet piracy filter. And in a new interview today with Radio 5AA in Adelaide, Brandis reiterated his call for a voluntary industry-based code of practice. Otherwise, he said, ISPs would face a situation where “if that fails, for government to legislate.”

Choice, now, is claiming “three-strikes” would “push Australia into the digital dark ages.”

These policies have “failed almost everywhere they have been introduced,” Choice CEO Alan Kirkland warns. “They are costly, ineffective, and lack due process which can put innocent consumers at risk.”

Australian Gov't Considering ‘Graduated Response’, Commits to Overhaul of Copyright Act

Kirkland and his organization admit online piracy is “a real issue.” Though he stresses that the best way to address it is to “give content-hungry consumers timely and flexible access to the content they want through legitimate means.”

He adds, “If implemented in Australia, these measures would push up the price of Internet access without any impact on piracy. Nobody supports internet piracy but punishing consumers is not the answer. The best way to stop piracy is to make it easier for Australians to pay for content like movies and television series at internationally competitive prices.”

As previously reported, Brandis has said the government would mull over “possible mechanisms” to provide a “legal incentive” for ISPs to co-operate with copyright owners in preventing infringement on their systems and networks. “This may include looking carefully at the merits of a scheme whereby ISPs are required to issue graduated warnings to consumers who are using websites to facilitate piracy,” he told the Australian Digital Alliance Forum. The country’s Copyright Act was also poised for an overhaul, he stated.