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Kickass torrents blocked in Australia under Universal ruling

Following the Foxtel-Village Roadshow judgment in December, the Federal Court has similarly ruled that foreign piracy website Kickass Torrents will be blocked at the expense of the rights holders.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Kickass Torrents and its related proxy websites will be blocked under Australian law thanks to a judgment in the Australian Federal Court case between several music studios and internet service providers (ISPs).

Within 15 days, each ISP must take "reasonable steps" to block Kickass Torrents, Justice Burley said on Friday, via DNS blocking or any alternative means for disabling access to the online location.

Burley J added that Universal must provide a landing page for any users attempting to reach Kickass Torrents, and within five business days must notify the ISPs of the URL for this landing page.

The block will remain in force for three years, at a cost to the rights holders of AU$50 per domain block.

The case began a year ago, when the four music studios -- Universal Music Australia, Sony Music Entertainment Australia, Warner Music Australia, and J Albert & Son -- filed a joint Federal Court application against ISPs last April in a bid to get them to block Kickass Torrents and its related proxy sites. The full list of respondents subject to the action involves TPG, Telstra, Optus, Foxtel, Virgin Mobile Australia, Vividwireless, Pacnet, Alphawest, and Uecomm.

During the hearing in October, the music studios had argued that ISPs should bear the cost of complying with the website-blocking laws because their carriage service facilitates copyright infringement and they are therefore not "mere innocent bystanders".

Telstra, Optus, TPG, and Foxtel had argued that they should be reimbursed for the costs associated.

In July, Burley J said the case could turn on whether Kickass Torrents was shut down for good following the arrest of the man allegedly running Kickass Torrents by the US Department of Justice (DoJ) earlier that month, and on the precedent set in the Foxtel/Roadshow case.

The precedent was set by the Foxtel/Roadshow ruling in December, wherein it ordered more than 50 ISPs to block the Pirate Bay, Torrentz, TorrentHound, IsoHunt, and SolarMovie and their related proxy sites but at the expense of the rights holders rather than the ISPs.

Under that ruling, rights holders were to pay a AU$50 fee per domain they wanted to block.

Following this judgment, Village Roadshow went on to initiate legal action to block a further 41 torrenting and streaming sites including Demonoid, ExtraTorrent, LimeTorrents, MegaShare, Piratebay.to, and EZTV last month.

Setting the trend for what will likely be the future of any similar proceeding, the ISPs said they do not intend to appear in court for the second Roadshow matter, which would speed up the process considerably.

Roadshow will still have to prove that the 41 sites in question are hosted overseas; have been contacted by the rights holder; and exist for the primary purpose of infringing or facilitating infringement of copyright, however.

Presiding judge Nicholas J told counsel representing Roadshow that it would be unhelpful to submit a 30-page affidavit about how the internet works; during the original trial, the court had been bogged down for more than a day on what constitutes an "online location".

Website blocking was legislated under the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Act 2015, 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.

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