Issue No 22: 27 July 2015



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Industry welcomes Government’s commitment to address issues in telco security legislation

A coalition of industry groups representing more than 60,000 Australian businesses has welcomed the Federal Government’s commitment that it will work with industry to improve draft legislation designed to make telecommunications infrastructure more resilient to external threats.

The coalition, comprising the Australian Industry Group (Ai Group), Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA), Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) and Communications Alliance, today released its submission to Government outlining its concerns with the draft Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2015, (also referred to as the Telecommunications Security Sector Reform (TSSR) initiative).

The industry groups acknowledge the importance of the Government’s objective of protecting telecommunications infrastructure and the information transmitted across it from interference but stress that industry already has a strong interest and demonstrated expertise in ensuring Australia’s networks are secure. 

The draft legislation goes too far in pursuit of the security objective by creating wide-ranging powers for Government to intervene in operational decisions such as buying equipment and choosing vendors and demanding commercially sensitive information from companies involved in the telecommunications industry. As a result, industry is very concerned the legislation would not deliver the increased protection the proposed reforms are aiming to achieve while also imposing significant new costs and red tape on industry.  

In their submission (July 2015 CA Submission - Telecommunications Sector Security Reform) the industry groups identified a number of concerns and areas for improvement, including that the legislation:

  • Could create significant additional and intrusive powers for Government to intervene in the commercial operations of telecommunications businesses;
  • Could discourage investment in and the adoption and deployment of new network technologies;
  • Is likely to impose additional costs on industry and ultimately consumers;
  • Does not offer indemnity to service providers against the risk of civil litigation through ‘safe harbours’, thereby limiting information sharing and the ability to quickly respond to threats and to jointly engage in preventative action;
  • Is inconsistent with regulatory approaches to protecting networks in other countries, including the UK, USA and Canada; and
  • Lacks transparency and fails to provide adequate consultative mechanisms and avenues of appeal.

Given these concerns the group welcomed the recent assurances from the Minister for Communications, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, and the Attorney-General, Senator the Hon George Brandis, that Government will closely consider the feedback from industry to ensure a workable outcome can be reached.

Industry is yet to be convinced that there are sufficient grounds to warrant the proposed reforms and the costs and intrusion into the commercial operations of Australian telecommunications companies and their suppliers that they represent.

Government Research Highlights Need for Affordable, Available Content to Curb Online Copyright Infringement

Improvements in the affordability and ready availability of online content in Australia are crucial ingredients to reduce online copyright infringement, Communications Alliance said in response to new research released by the Minister for Communications, Malcolm Turnbull.

Welcoming the research initiative, Communications Alliance CEO, John Stanton, said it pointed to the need for heightened efforts by rights holders to make legal online content available to Australian internet users in a timely and affordable way, as part of an integrated strategy to minimise online infringement.

Infringers said that the top three factors that would encourage them to stop infringing were:

  • A reduction in the cost of legal content (39%)
  • Legal content being more available (38%); and
  • Legal content being available as soon as it is released elsewhere (36%)

Only 21% of infringers said they would be encouraged to stop infringing if they received a letter from their ISP saying their account would be suspended.

“These results suggest that while there is a role for a copyright notice scheme Code in Australia to assist in fighting infringement, more work needs to be done to make legal content more affordable and more available, to combat the root causes of infringing activity.” Mr Stanton said.

“It is interesting that almost three quarters of those internet users who consumed content illegally were also accessing content legally – they were apparently not just looking exclusively for a ‘free ride’, but also were chasing the convenience that comes with ready availability of content.”
Communications Alliance, internet service providers (ISPs) and rights holders have cooperatively written a copyright notice scheme code (which does not includes sanctions such as suspension of consumers’ accounts) and have submitted it to the industry regulator, the ACMA. Negotiations are ongoing between the parties to finalise a commercial agreement, including cost-sharing, that will allow the Code and scheme to begin operating.

Extensive negotiations over cost-sharing have not yet resulted in an agreement, so ISPs and rights holders have jointly commissioned work by an independent expert to look at the costs that ISPs will incur to process Infringement Notices.

“The widespread pattern of online infringement in Australia, indicated by the research, underlines the fact that rights holders – as indicated by the Government – should be ready to pay the majority of the costs of operating a copyright notice scheme, given the enormous financial upside that will flow to rights holders from changing the behaviour of online infringers,” Mr Stanton said.

“Significantly, only 5% of infringers said that nothing would make them stop their activity – so the right combination of initiatives can certainly make an impact on what ISPs agree is a serious problem.”

New Member

Communications Alliance is pleased to welcome the following new member;

Netcom Wireless


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