Australia One Step Closer to Blocking Websites

On June 11th, 2015, the Australian Parliamentary Committee gave the OK for an anti-piracy bill to pass. In an attempt to curb net piracy, the bill in question would allow copyright holders to obtain blocking injunctions against ISPs for “pirate” sites located outside of Australia, such as sites like The Pirate Bay. There are several recommendations on rules involved in these injunctions.

Australian Parliament

If a rights holder requests an injunction, the ISP must take certain steps to “disable access to an online location”. The committee suggested that a landing page stating the site had been blocked and the specifics of the rule like the ones found in the UK be implemented. As ominous and restrictive as that sounds, the protections are not slanted completely toward the rights holder.

By doing this, if the artist or company wants to benefit from a site block, the bill states that the ISP would not be responsible for any costs associated with it. The block also releases the ISP from liability against infringements made by subscribers. Curiously enough, the bill specifically mentions that these injunctions will not apply to VPN services in Australia. Committee members also state that after a two year period of enactment on this policy, a review to assess the bill’s effectiveness is in order.

This bill has some fairly strong opposition. Many of the Australian ISPs were incensed that they were not consulted for information regarding the block. One of the most vocal opponents, Senator Scott Ludlam of the Australian Greens party wrote a dissenting report stating the bill is the “latest in a long line of misguided attempts by the government to monitor, control and censor the Internet.” Ludlam also states “Most importantly, there is also a significant weight of evidence showing that the Bill will not meet its aims, as it does not address the underlying cause of online copyright infringement: The continual refusal of offshore rights holders to make their content available in a timely, convenient and affordable manner to Australians”.

In conclusion, the restrictions of this law would be pretty easily circumvented. Aussies have become exceedingly good at getting around problems such as the limited libraries on streaming services like Netflix AUS. If you are one of the hundreds of thousands of folks in Australia that already connects to things like Netflix US with a VPN, you already know how to beat this restriction.  As the Australian government moves to block access to websites, the number of VPN users is sure to increase.