Interesting story hitting the press today on the use of Australia’s notice-and-takedown provisions under the Copyright Regulations.

Volunteer-type hosting service had to take down this site (now on an overseas mirror), after getting a letter from the NSW Minerals Council, alleging infringement of their copyright in the material on this website. More detail on indymedia.

Apparently, despite the requirements under the Copyright Regulations to “insert sufficient information to enable the carriage service provider to identify the copyright material in respect of which the infringement is claimed”, the lawyer letter didn’t attempt to actually state what copyright existed in – telling the ISP to do the identification:

“Content in which our client owns copyright may be viewed on it’s website, We ask that you compare our client’s website to the offending websites referred to above. On comparison, you will see the copyright infringement issues that our client has with the abovementioned websites.”

I’m troubled by this, and not just because I’m pretty sure it is NOT the intention of the regulations that lawyers who write these notices outsource the identification of copyright material to the host or ISP. (“Look at the website”??? please).

I’m concerned because this isn’t one of those cases that notice-and-takedown was meant to be provided for: cases, basically, where someone has put up shamelessly infringing material online with no apparent social benefit. The notice here is aimed at some speech which is pretty clearly political, something which at least arguably would be protected under fair dealing defences of criticism and review and/or parody/satire. This is not why the Safe Harbours were put in there, and arguably, it’s an abuse of the process.

Maybe we need an Australian version of Chilling to track this kind of thing.

UPDATE: Rising Tide, the people behind the website, have issued a counter-notice. Their press release is here.

UPDATE 2: Pete Black has commented. Note also that if you’re a barrister looking for something to do with your time, RisingTide are looking for some pro bono assistance…