EFF blasts Japan over piracy website blocking proposal

Japan should not introduce piracy website blocking laws in response to copyright infringement, EFF has said, because such a restriction doesn't work, violates freedom of expression, and 'breaks the internet'.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has likened piracy website blocking to "cutting off your hand to deal with a papercut" in response to the Japanese government's request for feedback on introducing such laws.

An EFF blog post argued that website blocking is a "terrible" solution to copyright infringement problems.

According to EFF, such blocks can be easily circumvented; risk capturing lawful expression; and violate "national and international principles of free expression".

"In response to infringement of copyrighted material, specifically citing a concern for manga, the government of Japan began work on a proposal that would make certain websites inaccessible in Japan," EFF said.

"Website blocking would lead to network errors and security problems.

"According to numerous studies, the best answer to the problem of online infringement is providing easy, lawful alternatives. Doing this also has the benefit of not penalising legitimate expression the way blocking does."

Pointing to the European Union's Article 13, which was recently rejected by the European Parliament, EFF said it has seen similar proposals globally.

Article 13 would have required online platforms including Google, Facebook, and Twitter to monitor potential copyright infringements on their sites, with rights holders gaining greater power to enforce their copyright.

The law was narrowly defeated, with 318 against the proposal, 278 in favour, and 31 abstaining. It was subsequently pushed back for further debate, to be revisited in September following potential rewrites.

In Australia, meanwhile, website blocking was legislated under the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Act, which passed both houses of Parliament back in mid-2015.

The law 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, with internet service providers ordered to block swathes of allegedly illegal torrenting and streaming websites in the time since then.

Last month, the Australian Federal Court sped up the process of piracy site blocking, with a judgment ordering ISPs to block more sites just one day after the hearing.

The hearing itself had lasted just one hour, with counsel for pay TV company Foxtel presenting evidence against 11 to 15 torrent websites and 10 streaming sites, including a new version of the Pirate Bay, which was blocked years ago under a previous Foxtel case.

Foxtel had begun proceedings back in April, saying it was targeting around 27 domain names to be blocked by internet service providers.

Two other piracy site-blocking cases currently facing the Federal Court have been brought by Roadshow and the world's largest producers of Chinese media content, TVBO Productions and Television Broadcasts (TVB), with Roadshow emerging victorious in April.

Previous site-blocking hearings saw content owners including Foxtel successfully seek blocks against Kickass Torrents, and more than 200 additional alleged piracy sites.

Under the initial ruling, rights holders are to pay a AU$50 fee per domain they want to block, with the websites to be blocked within 15 business days.

The Australian government opened consultation on the piracy site-blocking laws in mid February, seeking feedback on the effectiveness and efficiency of the mechanism, whether the application process and injunctions are operating well, and whether any amendments are required.

According to Australia's Department of Communications, there has been a "correlating" reduction in copyright infringement since the legislation was passed.

However, this also coincides with the launch of streaming services in Australia, as conceded by a previous report by the department.

"Rights holders' most powerful tool to combat online copyright infringement is making content accessible, timely, and affordable to consumers," Australian Prime Minister Turnbull admitted at the time.


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