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Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland is seeking public comment on possible changes to copyright law that would allow copyright owners force ISPs to hand over information about users that might be involved in illegal downloads or file-sharing.

Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland is seeking public comment on possible changes to copyright law that would allow copyright owners force ISPs to hand over information about users that might be involved in illegal downloads or file-sharing.

There are already Federal Court rules that allow for a general “discovery” process, but the process has been criticised as cumbersome and expensive, particularly where there are multiple online infringers.

“It is no secret that one of the most significant challenges for the copyright industries is illegal file-sharing and downloading,” McClelland told the 15th Biennial Copyright Symposium in Sydney on Friday, alluding to the case before the High Court regarding copyright infringement issues between Roadshow Films and ISP iiNet.

“Last month my department secretary, Roger Wilkins, held very successful preliminary discussions with key stakeholders from the copyright and ISP industries to explore industry solutions, and I am optimistic that collaborative approaches to online infringement can be implemented in Australia.”

The A-G has also released a consultation paper on the process of seeking ISP subscriber details  over copyright infringement matters, along with a plan to revise the scope of the copyright “safe harbour” scheme.

The paper says the difficulty of identifying people engaging in infringing activities has made it difficult for copyright owners to enforce their rights.

“The personal information of ISPs’ subscribers is solely within the knowledge of the particular ISP,” it says.

Obligations under the Privacy Act and the Telecommunications Act mean that ISPs cannot disclose customer information unless it is required by a law enforcement agency or is required under law, including by court order.

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