by Rebecca Merrett

Govt introduces copyright legislation that can block access to overseas websites

Mar 26, 20152 mins
Technology Industry

Under the Copyright (Online Infringement) Bill 2015 introduced into parliament today, Australians could be blocked from accessing overseas-based pirate websites.

The legislation would allow content rights holders to go to federal court and request that ISPs block a website that violates Australian copyright law.

The bill states that “a wide range of factors” will be considered before granting an injunction that compels an ISP to block a website.

The court would need to consider the public interest, the flagrancy of the infringement or facilitation of an infringement, and whether the percentage of legitimate content on the site outweighs pirate content.

The impact on the website operator or other people affected by granting a block would also be considered, as well as other remedies available to the rights holder.

It is estimated that complying with the new legislation will cost each ISP/carriage service provider $130,825 per year, according to the bill’s explanatory memorandum.

Read: Copyright reform: ALRC endorses technology-neutral fair use exception

Last year, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Attorney-General George Brandis announced in a letter their intentions to introduce site-blocking legislation.

The letter stated it would address difficulties for rights holders in taking legal action against websites operating outside Australia and provide ISPs with “certainty and legal protection of a court order”.

However, Google wrote in its submission document to the government’s copyright reform discussion paper last year that website blocking is “ineffective in addressing piracy” and has “serious unintended consequences for the very services and platforms that are part of the piracy solution”.

“Increasingly, overseas evidence suggests that the best way to combat piracy is to adopt a two-pronged approach.

“The first prong is to ensure that there are better, more convenient, legitimate alternatives to piracy.

“The second is to target piracy where it hurts the pirates: depriving them of the ability to profit from their activity,” Google wrote.