The Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015 allows copyright holders to apply to court to have piracy websites blocked by Internet Service Providers (ISPs). The power can even be used to block websites which 'facilitate' infringement. Many Australian consumers use Virtual Private Networks (VPN) to by-pass geo-blocking restrictions and buy content from overseas. Copyright holders believe this practice breaches their rights under the Copyright Act and may use this new blocking power against VPN websites.
ACCAN believes consumers should have the freedom to choose where they purchase content. Improved choice will also address some of the problems around access, delayed release dates and affordability which fuel piracy.
Judges will also be required to consider the 'public interest' before ordering a website block. Currently there is no clear way for interested parties, like consumer groups, to give evidence on the public interest. In most cases judges will only be relying on the word of rights holders before deciding to shut down a website.
We are calling on the Government to conduct a cost benefit analysis of the blocking bill. Dutch research found that site blocking against file sharing often has an immediate effect, but this typically fades out after a period of six months as new sources for pirated content emerge. ACCAN's concern is that this website blocking bill may devolve into an expensive game of 'whack-a-mole', which consumers will end up paying for through higher internet bills.