Website-blocking laws to cost ISPs AU$130,000 per year

The cost for Australia's internet service providers to block websites under the government's proposed copyright legislation, introduced in parliament on Thursday, has been estimated at over AU$130,000 per year.

The Australian government's proposed internet blocking legislation, introduced in parliament on Thursday by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, is expected to cost local carriage service providers over AU$130,000 each year to implement.

If passed into law by parliament, the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015 (PDF) will allow rights holders in Australia to obtain an injunction from the Federal Court in order to force internet service providers (ISPs) to take "reasonable steps to disable the access to the online location".

Such court-issued injunctions would require ISPs to block overseas-hosted websites that are identified to be predominantly for the purpose of copyright infringement.

According to the explanatory memorandum of the Bill, which amends the Copyright Act 1968, copyright owners would be able to apply directly to the Federal Court for an injunction without first having to establish the ISP's liability for copyright infringement or authorisation of copyright infringement.

It said that this process would be more efficient and would avoid implicating ISPs unnecessarily.

The explanatory memorandum also said that the introduction of the injunction power was subject to a short-form regulation impact statement, which estimated a total cost of AU$130,825 to ISPs on an annual basis.

"Any costs that copyright owners assume by utilising an injunction would be voluntary. Once the injunction provision is in force, it would be entirely at the discretion of copyright owners, whether they choose to make an application for an injunction," it said.

Introducing the Bill in parliament on Thursday, Turnbull said that provisions in the Bill had been drafted to ensure the new injunction power would not affect legitimate websites and services that legally provide access to copyright material.

"Importantly, the provision will apply on a no-fault basis against the carriage service provider. This recognises that while carriage service providers are not necessarily responsible for infringing online locations, they are best placed to prevent Australian internet users from accessing them," he said.

Turnbull also acknowledged that despite the scheme presented in the proposed Bill, the most powerful weapon against content infringement that rights holders possess is "to provide access to their content in a timely and affordable way".

"The government accepts that this is an important element in any package of measures to address online copyright infringement," said Turnbull. "The government also welcomes recent action by rights holders and expects industry to continue to respond to this demand from consumers in the digital market."

The introduction of the Bill follows the release last month of a new draft code jointly drawn up by ISPs and copyright holders that will see Australians receive warning notices if they are caught illicitly downloading films, TV shows, or movies online.

The two industry bodies were asked to develop a code by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Attorney-General George Brandis late last year.

The code (PDF) would see Australians get three chances to curb their infringing habits, or face having their customer details handed over to a copyright owner by court order.

Debate on the proposed legislation is expected to begin after parliament next sits in mid May.

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