Australian ISPs to block piracy sites from the pocket of content owners

The Australian Federal Court has ordered ISPs to block piracy websites, with content owners having to pay for the privilege.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

Australian pay TV provider and telco Foxtel and media company Roadshow Films have been attempting to get several internet service providers (ISPs) including Telstra, Optus, M2, and TPG to block access to foreign piracy websites through an Australian Federal Court order.

On Thursday, Justice Nicholas granted the former their wish under section 115A of the Copyright Act, however at a cost to rights holders.

The ruling means that piracy sites such as The Pirate Bay, Torrentz, isoHunt, and TorrentHound will need to be blocked by ISPs, with content owners -- such as Foxtel and Roadshow -- to pay a fee of AU$50 per domain name in order to do so. Site blocking will also need to be performed under court supervision.

"The applicants pay Telstra's, Optus', M2's, and TPG's compliance costs calculated at the rate of AU$50 per domain name the subject of DNS blocking undertaken for the purposes of complying with order two hereof," Nicholas J said in his judgment.

Content owners now have the ability to seek injunctions against ISPs ordering them to block access to overseas-based sites that infringe or facilitate copyright infringement.

Under these changes to the Copyright Act, ISPs are required to block known piracy sites within 15 days, displaying a message to customers that it has been given a court order to do so.

Additionally, it was ruled that content owners would be required to pay the ISPs legal costs pertaining to the site blocking case.

"Piracy does great damage to Australia's content creating industries and we were delighted that the government and Parliament recognised this by passing these new legislative provisions last year," Foxtel chief executive Peter Tonagh said following the ruling.

"This judgment is a major step in both directly combating piracy and educating the public that accessing content through these sites is not OK, in fact it is theft."

Tonagh also said that Foxtel is playing its part to reduce the attractiveness of piracy by making content available in a timely manner, at different price points, and on multiple devices, in a bid to deter people from obtaining material illegally.

Previously, Foxtel and Roadshow were fighting separate battles, with Justice Nicholas formally joining the two court proceedings in June, saying they had enough in common to be heard as one. This was despite Roadshow seeking to block a video-streaming site, Solarmovie, and Foxtel taking issue with four torrent websites involving 61 domain names.

After wrestling to define what constitutes an "online location" in June, Telstra, Optus, M2, and TPG argued that they should not have to bear the costs of compliance in implementing website blocks against the torrenting sites.

Costs were not determined prior to the passage of 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 under Section 115A.

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