Government wants piracy site-blocking Bill passed in June

Australian Attorney-General George Brandis has told Senate Estimates the Australian government wants its legislation to block piracy sites passed before the end of June.

The Australian government is hopeful its proposed anti-piracy legislation that would see internet service providers forced to block sites such as The Pirate Bay will make its way into law before parliament rises for its winter recess.

Speaking at Senate Estimates today, Australian Attorney-General George Brandis said the legislation was of "very great importance" to creative industries.

"They're entitled to the fruits of their labour like anyone else, and their capacity to be fully remunerated for the fruits of their labour has been very significantly eroded by piracy," Brandis said. "We hope to have that legislation through the parliament before parliament rises for the winter recess."

Earlier this month, a parliamentary committee expressed concern that the anti-piracy Bill could limit freedom of expression by having sites blocked that exist for legitimate purposes.

"While a website may have disproportionately high infringement of copyright materials, preventing users who are legally sharing or distributing files from accessing these websites, and preventing the general public from accessing such lawful material, could potentially limit their enjoyment of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and their right to receive information," the committee stated.

The committee stated that the government had not demonstrated that blocking sites is a proportional response to online copyright infringement.

A Senate committee is examining the legislation, and is due to report back tomorrow.

In concert with the piracy site-blocking Bill, the telecommunications industry has been developing a code for the issuing of warning notices to users alleged to have infringed on content owners' copyright.

Under the code lodged with the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) in April, once an ISP customer receives three warnings over a twelve month period, copyright holders are able to gain access to the user details through the Federal Court.

However, ACMA general manager of content, consumer, and citizen division, Jennifer McNeill, said the ACMA is not a position to consider the code for registration, due to a number of outstanding issues that need to be agreed to with rights holders.

"The ISPs, who are bound by the terms of the code ... they are still in discussions with rights holders around funding and indemnity arrangements," McNeill said. "It's really only once the authority has a sense of how those will work that it will be in a position to make a proper assessment of how the code will operate."

"There are, as I understand it, some residual concerns that the privacy commissioner has in relation to aspects of the code."

McNeill also said the ACMA is in discussions with the group representing Australian internet service providers, Communications Alliance, over enforcability matters.

The federal parliament is currently scheduled to rise for its winter break on June 25.

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