Judge allows Roadshow to raise piracy cases quicker, blocks more piracy websites

A group of studios, headed by Roadshow, will only need to notify carriage service providers within two months, instead of six, of whether they want to renew blocks to websites that have been deemed to illegally share copyrighted content.

Village Roadshow has won another legal battle against piracy, with the Australian Federal Court on Monday granting an application for carriage services providers (CSPs) to block another set of overseas hosted websites that linked, streamed, or torrented movies and TV shows. 

The case, initially filed in May, was headed by Village Roadshow and comprised of a group of studios consisting of Netflix, Disney, Columbia, Universal, Paramount, Warner Bros, Madmen Anime Studios, and Hong Kong's Television Broadcasts Limited.   

The legal matter was decided by Justice Thawley, who also accepted a request from Village Roadshow to reduce the time required to notify CSPs of when they will raise a legal application to renew any blocks that have already been enforced against websites that continue to illegally share copyrighted content.

Village Roadshow had submitted that as online piracy locations or websites can change, reducing the time-frame required to give notice to CSPs of legal applications to seek injunctions to block online piracy locations would provide more up-to-date evidence when analysing the status of these locations.

"In all the circumstances, two months seem to be appropriate and works to reduce the cost that might otherwise be provided should six months be provided to provide notice," Justice Thawley said.

The CSPs involved in the case -- Telstra, Optus, Vocus, TPG, and Vodafone -- had agreed to this reduced time-frame to give notice prior to the court hearing.

Unlike the stream of piracy cases that have unfolded over the past year, this case marks the first time Netflix has entered into a legal action to block piracy sites through Australia's anti-piracy laws. According to Netflix's submissions, episodes from Netflix shows such as Santa Clarita Diet and Stranger Things were illegally shared on a number of services without the streaming giant's permission.

Justice Thawley ordered an injunction under section 115A of the Copyright Act for the CSPs to take reasonable steps to block their customers from accessing the sites that infringed copyright. Under section 115A, the court can order for CSPs to disable access to an online location outside Australia if it has the primary effect of facilitating infringement of copyright.

The studios will pay a AU$50 fee per domain they want to block, with the websites to be blocked within 15 business days. ISPs that fail to take reasonable steps will be required to notify Village Roadshow of the steps it has implemented.

Last month, Village Roadshow received a favourable court decision for a similar matter, with the Australian Federal Court granting an application for telcos to block 76 overseas hosted websites that linked, streamed, or torrented movies and TV shows.

The judgment also follows Village Roadshow winning piracy cases against smart TV box websites and sites providing subtitle files in 2018. 

It upholds the trend of Australian courts blocking hundreds of torrenting and streaming websites in an increasingly speedy way after the amendment to the site-block laws were passed in late November. The amendment allows for faster blocks of mirror sites, reduces the burden of proving that a site is hosted outside of Australia, and expands the legislation to sites that not only have the "primary purpose", but also to those that have the "primary effect" of infringing copyright, the government said at the time.

Foxtel will attend court later this month for a similar piracy matter against CSPs, with that case focusing on proxy websites, in addition to torrenting and streaming ones that allegedly infringed upon Foxtel's copyright.

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