Google receives more than 1 million copyright takedown notices per day.
Online copyright infringement is a rapidly growing problem. The sharing of images, videos, music and written content continues to rise. No one thinks twice about the use of other people’s designs, using someone else’s photographs or copying a business’ content or material without considering offering payment or obtaining permission.
Recently, Google reported that it received 8 million search removal requests in just one week from content owners alleging infringement of their copyright. Google posts a weekly Transparency Report and you can see from the graph above (Source: Google, Business Insider and Statista) that the number of removal requests has doubled in the last year. And that number is only expected to increase.
This seems almost unmanageable and until the law catches up, people will continue to steal and use other people’s material with little or no consequence.
What are we doing in Australia about Copyright Infringement?
Australia is finally taking action about online copyright infringement. The regulators are discussing other countries’ approaches to tackling this growing problem and the Attorney General has recently released a public consultation paper. The window for submissions from interested parties on how to tackle the issue is very short – presumably in an effort to address the issue sooner.
The paper suggests important amendments to the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) that may potentially have a significant legal impact on ISPs and online content providers. The focus of the changes is on the responsibility and liability of ISPs, including considering what constitutes ‘reasonable steps’ for an ISP to take to prevent online copyright infringement.
There is also a proposal to implement a notification mechanism, similar to the US, UK and NZ, which will focus on educating users and penalizing repeat infringers. Another proposed change is the ability of copyright holders to apply for injunctive relief and be able to block internet websites operating outside Australia that regularly breach copyright.
Who will be held responsible?
Ultimately the most important outcome will be determining who will be held responsible for copyright infringement. Will it be the “publishers or the pipes”? The ‘pipes’ in this expression refers to the ISPs and search engines that could be judged to be enablers of copyright infringement.
In Europe, with the recent ‘Right to be Forgotten’ legislation, the European regulators put the onus on search engines, such as Google, to address and take responsibility for the issue. In the US, the DMCA legislation exempted ISPs and search engines from liability for copyright infringement.
Which way will Australia go?
The short time frame for comments on the proposed legislation to combat copyright infringement means that Australia is now finally taking this growing problem more seriously and moving rapidly to have new laws in place. But whether it will actually be enough to slow or stop this growing problem remains to be seen.