Key takeaways

  • New law grants powers to block foreign sites that infringe copyright.
  • Concerns raised that cloud storage providers and VPNs could be targeted under copyright legislation.
  • Increase in content platforms may help to drive piracy down.

This week, the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015 was passed in the Australian senate.

Under the law, film, music and other content owners can apply to block access to a foreign website whose “primary purpose” appears to be facilitating the infringement of copyright.

In that circumstance, an injunction request would be filed with the Federal Court, which if approved would then mean internet service providers (ISPs) must block Australian access to the site.

The intention behind the bill is to protect creative companies from revenue loss through illegal downloads. This is a major step forward on the agenda of the film and TV industry, which has reacted positively to the ruling.

Simon Bush, head of the Australian Home Entertainment Distributors Association, said the ruling was “a really positive sign for the creative content industry, who can invest more as a result.”

Targeting IP addresses

However the use of legislation that focuses on IP addresses has its limitations. One IP address can be utilised by multiple devices, and ISPs can rotate public IP addresses around subscribers.

Targeting IP addresses has had its casualties in the past, such as in a 2013 case that saw an ASIC application to block a site believed to be involved in investment scams. The blocking request led to the accidental shut-down of a quarter of a million websites.

The Australian Digital Alliance, a body that “advocates for balanced copyright laws” is one of the organisations to raise concerns about lack of clarity in the legislation. It highlights the fact that virtual private networks (VPNs), which are used by many businesses and provide anonymity for users surfing the internet, could be targeted, along with cloud storage providers that may host a range of content, both legal and infringing.

There is a reasonable chance that a VPN may be considered to be ‘facilitating’ infringement of copyright, especially for sites that either advertise themselves as ways to obtain content from non-Australian sites or with a majority of users that do so.”

Another battle in the war against piracy was the recent Federal Court decision that required some ISPs to pass on details to the copyright owners of subscribers that had illegally shared copies of the movie Dallas Buyers Club. This was a direct signal to consumers that infringement of intellectual property will be pursued by legal means.

Timely access to content

However the onset of greater legislation is only one of the ways to discourage piracy in Australia – which, while it cannot be eliminated, can certainly be limited.

One of the greatest drivers for illegal downloading is claimed to be the inability for users to legitimately access content when they demand it. In an environment where consumers have become used to accessing media at their own convenience and on any device, the traditional 120-day exclusivity window between cinema and general release is a model that frustrates modern expectations.

With an increase in the range of platforms that can provide timely and convenient access to film content, users may choose to turn away from pirated content and increasingly pay for a high quality – and more importantly, legitimate – service.



Tan Allaway

Tan Allaway is the editor-in-chief of PwC’s Digital Pulse.

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