news National pay TV operator Foxtel has reportedly confirmed plans to launch an attempt early in the near year to have a specific website allegedly hosting pirated film and TV content blocked, in what is expected to be the first test of new legislation designed to tackle Internet piracy.
In June Federal Parliament passed the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015. The legislation amended the Copyright Act to enable the owner of a copyright to apply to the Federal Court for an order requiring an Internet provider to block access to an online lication that has the primary purpose of infringing copyright or facilitating the infringement of copyright.
The bill was introduced by the Government following years of complaints by rightsholder and local distribution organisations who have pointed out that Australians are infringing copyright online in record levels using platforms such as BitTorrent. The legislation was criticised (including by a number of MPs) for not addressing what many believe is the substantial root cause of piracy in Australia — equitable access to online content — but passed with bipartisan support.
Inside Film reported today (we recommend you click here for the full article) that the pay TV giant would target one specific site “early in the near year”, with the site quoting Foxtel group director of corporate affairs as stating: “We have a clear and strong case, particularly as it relates to Foxtel-owned content.”
However, Foxtel has taken its time to bring the legal application.
In August the company made much the same statement — telling the ABC that it was seeking legal advice as it prepared to approach the Federal Court seeking a website blocking injunction. At the time, the company issued the following statement to Delimiter:
“The Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill does nothing more than give copyright holders similar rights in relation to foreign websites which steal their content to those they would have if the sites were based in Australia. Because these pirate sites do not exist in Australia, rights holders are not able to take direct legal action against them. Similar laws exists in Europe, the UK, Singapore and many other jurisdictions.”
“Foxtel and other rights holders are currently assessing what action can and should be taken to give effect to the legislation.”
Foxtel has not said which site or sites it would target first under the new laws.
However, analysis of Foxtel’s previous parliamentary submissions on the issue indicates that popular file-sharing site The Pirate Bay would be likely to be one of the first. In a submission to the Senate’s inquiry into the copyright infringement bill, Foxtel highlighted what it said was the “success” that had been achieved in overseas jurisdictions with similar site blocking powers.
“… several UK ISPs were ordered to block access to The Pirate Bay on 2 May 2012 pursuant to section 97A,” the company said, including a graph which it said had illustrated that the imposition of this injunction “resulted in a significant reduction in visitors to The Pirate Bay website”.
Foxtel also highlighted several other online platforms, such as the Newzbin, Movie2K and DL4ALL, which had been targeted by similar laws in the UK.
If Foxtel does attempt to have high-profile websites such as The Pirate Bay blocked, such a move would be likely to attract significant controversy. The company is viewed as one of the main corporate obstacles to having desirable pieces of content made more widely available in Australia on more accessible terms. For example, Foxtel has a contract with US cable network HBO which gives it exclusivity over local broadcasts of popular show Game of Thrones.
The company does not allow customers to pay to watch Game of Thrones episodes individually as they are aired in the US — instead, Foxtel requires customers to sign up to buy bundles of content which viewers may not want to consume, in order to watch certain shows. Online television players such as Netflix are starting to challenge this model, but do not have access to much of the content available through Foxtel’s own platform.
However, Foxtel may also face difficulties in getting sites such as The Pirate Bay blocked. The site has faced many legal issues over a number of years, but has so far been able to evade them, through a combination of technical and legal measures.