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The Inadequate Protection of Australia’s Safe Harbour Laws

2018-01-31 10:48 · 作者:Jazz Osvald   阅读:644

作者 | Jazz Osvald

翻译 | Bruce

(本文版权为知产力国际所有,转载请在显著位置注明来源。)


The Copyright Amendment (Service Providers) Bill 2017 was introduced to the Australian Senate on the 8th of December. The Bill aims to widen the scope of the Act’s Safe Harbour Provisions, in an attempt to bring Australia’s safe harbour laws in line with other jurisdictions; providing wider protections to institutions other than Internet Service Providers (ISP), who are the only bodies that are protected under the current scheme.

While these changes are a step in the right direction, they do not go far enough. Further changes need to be made to safe harbour provisions in order to protect all providers of online services, rather than just Internet Service Providers.

What are the Safe Harbour provisions?

In Australia, Safe Harbour provisions protect Internet Service Providers, like Telstra, or China Telecom, from liability if one of their users infringes copyright. This means, for example, if an ISP’s customer illegally pirates a film, then the ISP cannot be held liable.[1]

The current law only gives protection to “carriage service providers,”[2] which strictly only applies to Internet Service Providers. It does not apply to content providers like Facebook or Youtube.

Parliament initially adopted the current provisions in order to comply with Article 17.11.29 of the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement. [3] There has been speculation[4] that the insertion of “carriage” in the definition, which has the effect of excluding all but ISPs from safe harbour protection, was an error made by parliament.[5]

How do the current Safe Harbour Provisions work?

In order for a carriage service provider to be protected by the provisions, the infringing activity must fall into one of 4 categories:

1.    Transmission activities[6]

2.    Caching Activities[7]

3.    Hosting Activities[8]

4.    Information location services[9]

Further, a carriage service provider must follow certain conditions in order to enjoy protection:[10]

1.    The carriage service provider must not receive a financial benefit from the infringing activity if they have both the right and ability to control the infringing activity, and

2.    The carriage service provider must also promptly remove or disable access to any infringing material upon receiving a notice that the material in question has been found to be an infringement.

Provided that these conditions are satisfied, then a party cannot seek damages from a carriage service provider should one of their users infringe copyright.[11]

Proposed Changes to Safe Harbour Provisions

The proposed changes seek to significantly expand the protection from just carriage service providers, to including other institutions, such as organisations that assist persons with a disability and administrative bodies for educational institutions such as universities, schools, colleges, training bodies and pre-schools, libraries, archives and cultural institutions.[12]

The protections however, only apply to these bodies or organisations if the infringing activities undertaken are relevant to the function of the organization or body.[13]

Inadequate in comparison with other jurisdictions

There has been some criticism of the changes, claiming they are not extensive enough.[14] The Productivity Commission recommended in their 2016 Inquiry Report on Intellectual Property, that the Australian Government should expand the safe harbour scheme to being available to all providers of online services.[15] The Commission also found that limiting the scheme to only ISPs was not an effective way of deterring copyright infringement. The Commission found that the most effective and efficient way to curb copyright infringement was the timely and competitively-priced access to content.[16] 

Under the proposed changes, larger companies such as Facebook and Youtube would likely be unaffected, as they already benefit from US safe harbour protection.[17] Smaller companies such as tech startups, and website and content providers are not protected. These measures can be seen as stifling the Australian market, since smaller companies won’t want to take risks due to fear of litigation.[18] This lack of protection could also discourage international companies from setting up shop in Australia, since US, EU or Chinese law would provide better protection.

This finding is also supported by the Commission’s report, which found that online service providers would face fewer impediments when establishing operations in Australia if the provisions were widened. This would in turn make the copyright system more adaptable as new services and technologies are introduced.[19] Further, bringing Australia’s law in line with international standards would decrease commercial uncertainty.

Foreign Protections

The US, EU and China, three massive hubs for startup technology companies and content providers, all offer extensive safe harbour protections, which not only protect Internet Service Providers, but also all content providers and web hosts.

In the US, content providers are included in the definition of Network Service Providers (NSP) under the United States Digital Millennium Copyright Act, affording them protection under safe harbour provisions.[20]

The E-Commerce Directive, the Safe Harbours equivalent in the European Union, likewise protects content providers as well as ISPs.[21] These provisions not only protect against copyright infringements, but trademark infringement, defamation and misleading advertising. The safe harbour provisions also cover civil, administrative and criminal liability, but do not apply to information location services.[22]

In China, the Right of Communication Through the Information Network (RPRCIN) is the authoritative document on safe harbour provisions. It was modelled on the DMCA and E-Commerce Directive, providing the same protections. The term “network service providers” is not defined in the Regulations, but courts have applied it to both ISPs and content providers,[23] indicating that the term holds the same definition as the DMCA.

These comparisons demonstrate the disparity that content providers experience in Australia. Should a user infringe copyright on their platform, they cannot enjoy the protection of safe harbour provisions. This may prompt startup companies to either not launch in Australia, or move business overseas, to jurisdictions that provide much stronger legal immunities.

During the Bill’s second reading speech, the government argued that expanding the safe harbour provisions will reduce litigation, and enforce copyright in a more streamlined fashion.

Australia has been rightly applauded for taking these steps to update its safe harbour laws. However, of Australian policymakers are serious about encouraging Australian innovation and commercial certainty, then further steps to protect content providers should be taken.


[1] Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) Div 2AA.
[2] Telecommunications Act 1997 (Cth) s 87.
[3]  Australian Government  Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australian-United States Free Trade Agreement Chapter Seventeen – Intellectual Property Rights http://dfat.gov.au/about-us/publications/trade-investment/australia-united-states-free-trade-agreement/Pages/chapter-seventeen-intellectual-property-rights.aspx
.
[4] Andy, Google & Facebook Excluded F rom Aussie Safe Harbour Copyright Amendments (5 December 2017) TorrentFreak .
[5] Kimberlee Weatheral l, ‘Safe Harbours’ (Speech delivered at the Sydney University Law School, Sydney, 2015) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XnvXIuqpiwk/.
[6] Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) s 116AC.
[7] Ibid s 116AD.
[8] Ibid s 116AE.
[9] Ibid s 116AF.
[10] Ibid s 116AH.
[11] Ibid s 116AG(2).
[12] Explanatory Memorandum, Copyright Amendment (Service Providers) Bill 2017, 6.
[13] Ibid 7.
[14] Kylie Pappalardo, Changes to copyright in Australia will make it tougher for tech start-ups (11 December 2017) Business Insider Australia https://www.businessinsider.com.au/copyright-tech-start-ups-2017-12.
[15] Productivity Commission Inquiry Report, Intellectual Property Arrangements, Report No 78 (2016) 551.
[16] Ibid 40.
[17] Google, Submission No 102 to Productivity Commission, Intellectual Property Arrangements, 2016, 34.
[18] Ibid 34-35.
[19] Productivity Commission Inquiry Report, Intellectual Property Arrangements, Report No 78 (2016) 567.
[20] Bea & VandenBerk Attorneys At Law Liability Protections for online service providers under the DMCA and CDA (31 March 2011) https://www.beavandenberk.com/ip/copyright-tm/liability-protections-for-online-service-providers-under-the-dmca-and-cda/.
[21] Neil Mohring, The music industry takes on ‘safe harbor’ (19 August 2016) Lexology https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=7aa7f01c-f522-488e-b404-cd4f1f85419b.
[22] Yong Wan, ‘Safe Harbours f rom Copyright Infringement Liability in China’ (2013) 60(4) Copyright Society of the USA 635, 637.
[23] Albert Chen, Han Han Vs Baidu: Safe Harbor Principle in China (27 September 2012) China IP Lawyer http://www.chinaiplawyer.com/han-han-baidu-safe-harbor-principle-china/.

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