Australian govt to introduce piracy filter legislation next week

The Australian government will introduce legislation forcing ISPs to block websites sharing illicit TV shows, films, and music next week.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

Australian Attorney-General George Brandis has confirmed that legislation that will see copyright-infringing websites such as The Pirate Bay blocked by Australian ISPs will be introduced into parliament next week, but will not be passed before the next Budget.

The legislation, first flagged late last year, will allow rights holders to go to court to force ISPs to block websites that are predominantly for the purpose of copyright infringement.

It is unclear exactly what type of copyright infringement will be grounds for a site to potentially be blocked, or which rights holders can apply to a court to have a site blocked.

There had been reports suggesting that the legislation would be introduced on Thursday, and sought to be passed this sitting period, but a spokesperson for the attorney-general has confirmed that the legislation will be introduced next week, and be referred to a committee -- meaning it won't pass through the parliament before the end of next week.

"The Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill will be introduced to the parliament next week, and is expected to be referred to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee for review," the spokesperson said.

"There will be adequate time for consultation and for people to make submissions throughout this process."

The government will need either Labor support or six cross-bench senators in order for the legislation to pass. Labor has already flagged that it isn't convinced the legislation will be effective.

Shadow Communications Minister Jason Clare said last year that the plan to block websites is "unlikely to be an effective strategy for dealing with online piracy".

Clare's comments are similar to comments Turnbull made in opposition in 2012 about the then-Labor government's plans for a mandatory internet filtering scheme.

"The Coalition's opposition to Labor's proposed filter were that it included sites not deemed illegal, it slowed the overall performance of the internet, imposed significant and unnecessary costs on ISPs, and ultimately will not work."

Turnbull has rejected suggestions that the government's proposal to block piracy websites constitutes a return to internet filtering, telling journalists last year that to call it that is "complete BS".

In a blog post, Turnbull sought to separate the legislation from internet filtering, stating that internet filtering is designed to block a certain category of websites designated by the government, while the government's legislation will allow a certain category of websites to be blocked by court orders sought by rights holders, not the government.

"It will be a court, not the government, that will determine which sites are blocked. Moreover, this is not an automatic process, but determined by a court with all of the normal protections of legal due process. In other words, a judge will make the decision, after hearing evidence and argument, not an algorithm in the software operating a router," he said.

"In considering whether to grant an injunction, the court would be required to have regard to the rights of any person likely to be affected by the grant of such an injunction. The court procedures would enable a court to give such directions as it considers appropriate in all of the circumstances."

It comes as the Federal Court is expected to decide in the next fortnight whether it will force iiNet and a number of other ISPs to hand over to Dallas Buyers Club LLC the details of customers alleged to have downloaded illicit copies of the film.

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