Brandis proposes website blocking and piracy crackdown

Brandis proposes website blocking and piracy crackdown

Summary: A leaked discussion paper from the Australian Attorney-General's Department reveals proposals to implement new legislation to undo the High Court's judgement in the 2012 iiNet copyright infringement case against Hollywood film studios, and force ISPs to block websites containing copyright infringing material.


A leaked discussion paper from both Attorney-General George Brandis and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has floated the possibility of websites being blocked, and measures to compel ISPs to take steps to prevent their customers infringing on copyright online.

Five months after first flagging a crackdown was on its way, Brandis appears to be pushing ahead with plans to crack down on Australians using programs such as BitTorrent to obtain copyright-infringing content such as TV shows, music, and films.

The discussion paper, leaked to Crikey, had been expected to be released this month, following Brandis meeting with representatives in the US and UK governments on their respective copyright infringement deterrence schemes.

It outlines a number of potential legislative measures the government can implement to deter what the paper said is a "long standing issue" with Australians having "high illegal download rates".

The government states in the document that it believes even if an ISP doesn't have a direct power to prevent its users from infringing on copyright, there are "reasonable steps" it can take to deter infringement.

In a move to undo the 2012 High Court judgment that iiNet did not authorise its users' copyright infringement, the paper proposes amending the Copyright Act to extend authorisation of copyright infringement and the "power to prevent" infringement would just be one factor the courts would consider in determining whether an ISP was liable for infringement.

Determining what constitutes a "reasonable step" to deter copyright infringement is open to debate, and the paper states that the government is looking to the industry to determine steps that do not disadvantage the ISPs, or burden them with "unreasonable costs". 

Hollywood studios would also be able to get court injunctions to force ISPs to censor websites found to contain copyright infringing material, the paper proposes. The paper states the block would have to apply to all ISPs at the wholesale level, to ensure it is blocked in total, and customers couldn't just switch between ISPs.

Despite the strong proposals, the government admits in the paper that it struggles to quantify the volume and the impact of online copyright infringement in Australia, and has sought feedback on how the impact could be properly measured.

The paper hasn't officially been released by the government, however, it appears a quick turnaround on the discussion paper is expected, with submissions open until August 25th. 

ZDNet first reported in June that the Communications Department and the Attorney-General's Department had been collaborating on a joint proposal, and although the Communications Department had been arguing for the government to force content owners to make their products available quicker and more affordable, that part of the proposal appears to have been neglected in the leaked discussion paper. 

The option for graduated response to customers found to be infringing multiple times is not directly mentioned, but the discussion paper states that the government is not looking for a scheme that imposes sanctions without due process, or one that leads to the disruption of an internet connection.

Turnbull's involvement in the discussion paper that proposes undoing the 2012 High Court case comes despite his stating at the time that he was in favour of the decision. 

"I think the High Court came to the right decision and I really welcome it," he said at the time.

"It is very, very, very difficult if not impossible for someone that is just selling connectivity, just providing bandwidth to then be monitoring what people are doing."

He said at the time that copyright owners needed to recognise that TV shows put to air will be made available globally at once.

"So the owners of that copyright have got to be in a position where it can be released simultaneously theatrically, or in the case of something like that on Pay TV everywhere. But also, it should be for sale through the iTunes store or various other platforms at the same time," he said.

"And if they can download, they will. Now we’re just kidding ourselves — all they are doing is throwing money away by not making it available instantly."

Topics: Piracy, Government, Government AU, Australia


Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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  • Pack of clowns

    So this is how "the adults" wage a "war on red tape", by adding a whole lot more red tape that'll add costs to ISP's who will pass it on to us.

    The Rudd/Gillard years seem good compared to this government...
  • Rudd/Gillard were good ...

    The Rudd/Gillard years were good. We came through the GFC fairly unscathed ... better off than any other country.

    It was just the back stabbing and infighting that Australians didn't like, but at least the previous government was content with back stabbing each other. This government is back stabbing every ordinary Australian.
  • Brandis the know it all.

    This arrogant little twerp seems like he has nothing better to do than be a bully to whoever doesn't share his beliefs. He must be the worst AG this country has ever seen. He should be bullying Turnbull into doing something to reduce costs and speed up delivery on all the material that is supposably illegally downloaded. Australians pay far more for music and other entertainment than in the US and UK. It's the Australian public who are being ripped off more than the owners of the copyright.
  • Foot Shot

    The moron is blighted by over-weaning ambition and blind optimism and a pea-sized brain and he can't keep drawing his pseudo-legal six guns without shooting himself in the foot sooner or later. Typical 'Ready - FIRE - aim' approach to every problem. Hasn't he heard of Free Press?
    Dr. Ghostly
  • TPP

    This is all to do with the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement that the US is foisting on other countries. We've got to be seen to be doing something. Give it a while and it may quietly die.

    However, it has got to be a politically dumb move. It reminds me of Clint Eastwood and Renee Russo in the movie IN THE LINE OF FIRE. She says to him (not verbatim) "Every time I start to like you, you say something to make me hate you". And so it is with Tony's boys, George B and Mathias C. They are a'hole material. They make TA look good.
  • The new Liberal "Brandis" filter.

    Australians have always opposed "filtering/censorship" it's time to march on Brandis and Murdoch and move both of these creepy people on.
    Kevin Cobley
  • Malcolm going back on something he said?

    "I think the High Court came to the right decision and I really welcome it," he said at the time.

    He has now changed his stance?


    Malcolm Turnbull keeps digging himself down further and further. Changing all his promises and actions to suit Telstra and Murdoch. This just fits in with that as with this coming in, those guys would stand to gain the most. So over his methods. Add to that the money he is spending dismantling the FttP NBN in place of something that will again benefit Telstra & Co, instead of just finishing the job, which by now is surely the cheaper option and you've got to wonder whose interest he really serves.

    As for Brandis - treat the cause not the symptom. When are you going to get it?
  • And we thought Conroy's Filter Was Bad.

    Now they not only cripple the fibre network with ancient copper but we get to pay higher monthly charges to maintain & power this dog's breakfast as well as store/filter/censor it's delivery/content.

    I suspect these Murdoch puppets will only be satisfied once Brandis legislates a compusory Foxtell subscription be applied to everyone's internet service as well.
    • I could see something like that happening...

      Double the fees, half the content, and forget completely about shows you actually like.