Foxtel targets 15 piracy websites

Another 15 alleged copyright-infringing websites are in Foxtel's crosshairs, with the content owner claiming they involve illegal torrenting and streaming services.

Foxtel has brought another piracy site-blocking case to the Federal Court of Australia, this time targeting 15 online locations involving around 27 domain names to be blocked by internet service providers.

Counsel for Foxtel confirmed to Justice Nicholas during a case-management hearing on Friday morning that all are "conventional" piracy websites involving torrents and streaming, which are alleged to facilitate the infringement of copyright.

"No novel technology here," she confirmed, explaining that it's all piracy technology the court has dealt with before.

Counsel for Foxtel said that with so many previous site-blocking cases, the aim is now to "try and streamline this process a little further, both from the point of view of costs for the applicant and efficiency for the court".

One such way in which she suggested this could be done was by not involving evidence from an expert, and no live demonstrations of the websites during the hearing.

"If there is no challenge and no other party that desires to be heard ... Your Honour might consider dealing with the matter on papers," counsel also suggested.

Nicholas J said there would need to be at least a "very short" hearing, with no live demos but with screenshots and videos of the websites as evidence.

No ISPs showed up for the case-management hearing on Friday, after last year establishing the procedure of not being present during piracy site-blocking trials.

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).

The TVBO/TVB and Roadshow cases began proceedings in December 2017, with both involving slightly different technologies for the court to deal with: Smart TV boxes and how they use apps linked to app marketplaces to stream copyright-infringing content.

Those rights holders are therefore seeking orders to sever the domain names involved in the process, which they said would then halt the devices from accessing content.

Nicholas J is set to deliver his judgment in the Roadshow case later on Friday, but had granted TVB until an additional hearing on May 2 to put together a submission in order to convince him that the primary purpose is facilitating the infringement of copyright, after the judge remained sceptical as to whether watching a live Chinese TV broadcast amounts to copyright infringement.

Previous site-blocking hearings saw content owners including Foxtel successfully seek blocks against Kickass Torrents, the Pirate Bay, 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.

Website blocking was legislated under the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Act, 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.

The Australian government then opened consultation on the piracy site-blocking laws in mid February, with the Department of Communications 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 the Department of Communications, there has been a "correlating" reduction in copyright infringement since the legislation was passed -- although this also coincides with the launch of streaming services in Australia, as noted by a previous report by the department.

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