by Jeremy Malcolm, Internet lawyer
There has been a lot of publicity lately about letters sent on behalf of movie studios and music labels, demanding the removal of their material from the Internet. Usually these letters are received by Internet providers, but sometimes by individual Internet users. The letters are often generated automatically, and sometimes incorrectly, when a file legitimately hosted on the Internet is misidentified as a copyright-infringing movie or song.
Under new amendments to our copyright law that have been introduced in the wake of Australia's accession to the Australia-United States free trade agreement, recipients of these letters need to make sure they take them seriously. If such a letter identifies material that you are hosting on the Internet that is likely to be copyright-infringing, you could be sued for damages if you fail to remove or disable access to the material quickly.
Although most of these letters are directed to ISPs, end users of the Internet are still directly affected, as they may find that if a third party complains that they are hosting copyright-infringing material in their Web space, or sharing it using P2P software such as Kazaa, the ISP could suspend their account or remove or block the offending material without notice. Like it or not, this is likely to become part of the new way of life for Australian Internet users.