The Australian Parliament has passed controversial amendments to the Copyright Act, aimed at reducing online piracy.
The provisions – set out in the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Act 2015 – will allow a copyright owner to get a court order blocking Australian access to websites hosting infringing content, but only where the “primary purpose” of the overseas site is to infringe copyright or to facilitate infringements such as “Pirate Bay” style websites.
The order will operate not against the overseas site but against Australian internet service providers (ISPs), and will require the Australian ISP to take “reasonable steps to disable access to the online location“.
In assessing whether or not to grant an order, the court has to consider issues such as how flagrant the infringement is, whether the overseas site also makes directories, indexes and so on available to users to make it easier to find the infringing material, the level of disregard for copyright generally, and whether ordering that access be disabled is, in all the circumstances, a proportionate response.
The amendments have been welcomed by rights owners, who see the provisions as giving them another tool to curb piracy, which can impact seriously on their financial viability, but the amendments have been critiqued by consumer groups and various academics and technology writers.
As with anything, the proof will be in the pudding, but rights owners have pointed to statistics from overseas that indicate that similar measures have resulted in drops in levels of piracy. See, for example, the report at http://www.techpolicyinstitute.org/blog/2015/06/the-effectiveness-of-site-blocking-as-an-anti-piracy-strategy-evidence-from-the-u-k/.
For the legislation itself, see: