Journalists' union withdraws support for internet filtering

The Media, Entertainment, and Arts Alliance has withdrawn its support for a proposal to allow rights holders to force ISPs to block websites containing copyright-infringing content.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

The Media, Entertainment, and Arts Alliance has withdrawn its submission to the Australian government's online copyright infringement discussion paper, stating it never intended to support an internet filter to block websites such as The Pirate Bay.

This morning, ZDNet reported that in the MEAA's submission to the government's consultation on ways to reduce Australians downloading infringing TV shows and films, the union said it supported allowing rights holders to get an injunction to force ISPs to block websites, such as The Pirate Bay, that contain copyright-infringing TV shows and films.

"MEAA welcomes the government's recognition that rights holders are unable to take enforcement action against overseas-based websites and that action needs to be directed at intermediaries. MEAA strongly supports the proposal to allow for no fault injunctive relief," the MEAA said.

"We note reports that in the UK, where site blocking has been implemented, the use of Pirate Bay declined by 60 percent after it was blocked."

The MEAA represents a broad range of the creative industry including journalists, actors, dancers, photographers, and people in film and TV, however, following online backlash to the MEAA's submission this morning, the submission was removed from the Attorney-General's website, and the union said in a statement that it did not intend to have its support for the government's proposal to be intepreted as support for an internet filter.

"It was never our intention to make a submission which could in any way be interpreted as supporting an internet filter. We have previously campaigned against Government proposals for an internet filter and will continue to do so, as we also continue to campaign against data retention," MEAA said.

The MEAA, which was supportive of other government proposals in the discussion paper, including a graduated response scheme alerting customers to when they are caught downloading infringing shows or films, said it would continue to fight for copyright protection, but said it would consult more widely amongst its membership before making a new submission.

"MEAA has always fought for the fair recognition and proper remuneration of our members' creativity through effective copyright protection. Copyright infringement is a real and serious threat to the livelihood of many of our members – journalists and performers," the MEAA said.

"We will seek to make a new submission to government based on a broader consultation with all sections of our membership."

The statement was also emailed out to the union's member base this afternoon.

Guardian Australia reported this morning that the MEAA was also opposed to the Australian Law Reform Commission's proposal for a new 'fair use' exemption in the use of copyright-protected works.

The backflip in the MEAA's position comes almost a year to the day since the Coalition backflipped on its own initial policy support for an opt-out internet filtering system in just five hours.

Josh Taylor is a member of the Media, Entertainment, and Arts Alliance

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