Village Roadshow targets 40 sites for piracy website blocking

Village Roadshow's new five-point plan for combating copyright infringement includes site blocking, suing infringers, and a 'major PR campaign' as it aims to block 40 more websites that it says are responsible for 90 percent of piracy.

Village Roadshow has announced its new plan for combating piracy through a five-part strategy, as well as its intent to pursue website blocks against a further 40 foreign sites that facilitate the infringement of copyright this month.

During its financial results presentation on Friday, Village Roadshow said piracy is impacting its cinema and film distribution businesses, and hailed the impact of its success in getting the Australian Federal Court to compel internet service providers to block piracy websites including The Pirate Bay, Torrentz, isoHunt, and TorrentHound and streaming site Solarmovie in December.

"Using bipartisan legislation, access to The Pirate Bay website has been blocked, resulting in a dramatic reduction in downloads from that site," the company said.

"In February, will initiate the blocking of a further 40 pirate sites, constituting approximately 90 percent of the flow."

Village Roadshow's new five-point program for combating piracy involves suing infringers; blocking sites; getting Google to take down or demote the ranking in its search results for piracy websites; a "major PR campaign"; and ensuring the availability of legal products.

It is hoping for a similar outcome to that attained in South Korea, which experienced an 89.8 percent decrease in piracy following legal action and was resultant in driving box office and movie distribution profits.

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(Image: Screenshot by Corinne Reichert/ZDNet)

Foxtel and Roadshow's Australian case set the precedent for content owners to seek injunctions against ISPs, ordering them to block access to foreign piracy websites at the cost of the copyright owners.

The blocks are obtainable under the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Act 2015, which passed both houses of parliament in mid-2015 and allows rights holders to obtain a court order to block websites hosted overseas that are deemed to exist for the primary purpose of infringing or facilitating infringement of copyright.

Roadshow applied to block websites using the legislation a year ago, in February 2016, which was followed by an almost year-long court case that debated DNS blocking, the cost of the blocks, and possible workarounds to any website blocks.

The domain name blocks appeared soon after the judgment, but are simple to bypass if users point their DNS entries at services such as Google Public DNS instead of their ISP's domain name servers.

Village Roadshow co-CEO Graham Burke told ZDNet back in 2014: "We make AU$2.6 billion worth of films in Australia. If the piracy thing is not nailed, it's over, mate. O-V-E-R."

Village Roadshow is also hedging its bets by making AU$20,000 in political donations directly to the local Labor branch of Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, who would be responsible for overseeing many of the regulations and laws that Village Roadshow could take advantage of in its attempts to stymie online piracy under a Labor government.

Meanwhile, the federal government itself has been publishing research revealing that the rate of piracy has "significantly" declined organically due to the availability of legal streaming services such as Netflix.

Village Roadshow reported a net loss of AU$6.71 million, almost double last year's net loss of AU$3.46 million, on earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA) of AU$78.4 million for the first half of FY17, and revenue of AU$542.5 million.

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