Foxtel wants UK-style block on piracy websites

Australia's largest pay TV provider has called for parliament to follow the UK's lead and give courts the power to block websites that have copyright infringing content.

Australia's largest pay TV provider, Foxtel, has told the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) that Australia should follow the UK and block sites that offer copyright infringing content, such as The Pirate Bay.

Foxtel, the pay TV network that is owned by Telstra and News Limited, said in its submission (PDF) to the ALRC's review of copyright law that the film studios should be able to go to court and force internet service providers (ISPs) to block specific websites that host infringing content.

"We submit that parliament should provide the courts with the power to order ISPs to block specific sites. This power would be exercised after application by a rights holder and result in the issuing of an injunction that applies to all ISPs," Foxtel said. "This legislation would be similar to that used in the UK to block piracy sites, such as The Pirate Bay."

Foxtel said that the UK model had been a great success, and traffic to The Pirate Bay had dropped to a quarter of its original levels between April and September this year.

But despite the site being blocked at a server level in the UK by the six largest ISPs serving around 20 million customers, some were able to work around the block via a proxy within minutes .

Foxtel, which currently has 2.3 million subscribers across Australia, said broadly that the ALRC's review should not allow the "social norms" that condone copyright infringement to determine how the law may be changed.

"We submit that the ALRC must not allow social norms, which condone illegitimate use of copyright material, or would be used to justify unreasonably broad exemptions to copyright infringement provisions, or to dictate amendments to copyright law, which will diminish the ability of content creators and owners to appropriately exploit their protected works."

The company said that Australia needed to implement an industry code of practice to deal with copyright infringement in order to align itself with other countries, such as the US, the UK, New Zealand, France, and Korea. The scheme in mind would be a graduated response scheme that starts with infringement notices.

"Foxtel believes that a notice scheme would result in a significant proportion of those illegally downloading content to change their behaviour and cease downloading," the company said.

The New Zealand system sees users handed NZ$15,000 fines if they are caught three times infringing on copyright. Since bringing in the law in 2011, only a small number of users have reached the third strike.

Negotiations for Australia's own version of the infringement notice system have struggled to progress, with ISPs and the content industry at loggerheads over who would fund the system. In New Zealand, ISPs charge the content owners NZ$25 per notice sent to a user, however the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand wants this dropped to NZ$2.

Foxtel said that it was seeking to meet the demands of consumers through offering services not only on the TV, but also through tablets, and said that content from the US was being made available very soon after it airs in the US. HBO's The Walking Dead airs in Australia 33 hours after the US and Dexter airs three days after, for example.