In December 2016 and after substantial work to amend the law, an Australian court ordered the blocking of several pirate sites headed up by the infamous The Pirate Bay.
Over the five years since, movie companies including Roadshow Films, Disney, Paramount, Columbia, Universal, Warner, and more recently Netflix have returned to court time and again to have hundreds more sites blocked. The aim, as always, is to slow down rampant movie and TV show piracy.
New Application for Blocking Injunction
Back in September 2021, these companies along with Television Broadcasts Limited and TVBI Company Limited filed a new application at the Federal Court, seeking the blocking of more than 100 domains under Section 115A of the Copyright Act 1968. The application targeted 48 ISPs operated by Telstra, Optus, Vocus, TPG and Vodafone corporate groups.
The applicants claimed that the 101 domains relate to 63 ‘pirate’ sites that either infringe or facilitate the infringement of copyright in large numbers of movies and TV shows owned by them. They further reported that since the sites (full list below) are operated from outside Australia, they are eligible for blocking.
Court Issues Judgment
In an extremely thorough judgment handed down this week, Justice Nicholas largely found in favor of the applicants. He acknowledged that the copyright holders had made reasonable efforts to identify the people behind the sites and that none of them had applied to be joined as a party in the proceedings, despite being notified of the legal action.
“The evidence satisfies me that each of the target online locations identified in the applicants’ proposed orders infringes or facilitates the infringement of the applicants’ copyright in various well-known cinematograph films,” he wrote.
“I am also satisfied that the target online locations have the primary purpose, or the primary effect, of infringing or facilitating an infringement of copyright in large numbers of commercially released cinematograph films.”
Dynamic Injunction Applies
When blocking injunctions are handed down in Australia against specific domains, targeted sites sometimes choose to change the way they operate. This can include changes to domain names and/or IP addresses in the hope that blocks can be evaded.
To counter this threat, so-called ‘dynamic injunctions’ allow copyright holders to notify ISPs of the changes and if no objections are received, sites made available through modified means will also be blocked, if the copyright holders have a good faith belief they are the same platforms.
That is also the case here but in this application, the movie and TV studios also attempted to expand their ability to block sites that aren’t necessarily part of the original order.
Studios Attempt to Block ‘Pirate Brands’
In recent years there has been a trend of pirate sites launching with the same naming conventions as others, in an attempt to attract users who may be familiar with a specific ‘brand’. A good example is that of ‘123Movies’ which can be found repeated across numerous competitors that aren’t necessarily connected to the original site.
An expert for the applicants told the Court that when a ‘branded’ pirate site is blocked, new websites appear with the same functionality under similar but different domains. A solicitor for the applicants argued that new iterations of “online locations” can sometimes look substantially similar to the original blocked sites, but with aesthetic or structural differences such as layouts or different categorizations for content.
It seems that the copyright holders would like functionally similar websites with similar names to be blocked under the original order. However, the Judge wasn’t satisfied with the approach. A site with a different domain, IP address and different URL is not the same “online location” under copyright law, even when its branding is similar to that of a blocked domain.
Reaching a middle ground, the Judge offered a compromise whereby copyright holders can make further applications in the proceeding to extend existing orders to include new target “online locations” that appear to be associated with already blocked “online locations”, providing the former makes available substantially the same content as the latter.
If there are no objections filed by ISPs or site operators, the Court will consider the application.
The list of domains to be blocked in the first instance reads as follows:
flixtor.to, flixtor.se, flixtor.vc, flixtor.it, flixtor.nu, flixtor.gy, cipflix.to, 123movies.directory, 123movies.tools, 123movies-one.com, fmovies.gallery, watchsomuch.org, watchsomuch.tv, snahp.it, f2movies.to, emovies.io, 0123movies.net, 0123movies.cat, bflix.to, tornadomovies.co, ev01.to, ev01.net, zoechip.com, himovies.to, gotohub.com, theofficetv.com, movgotv.com, hdmovie5.com, hdmovie2.com, dhmovie5.net, hdmovie5.co, hdmovie5.in, new-movies123.link, movieorca.com, streamm4u.com, unblockninja.com, attacker.tv, topnow.se, torrentbay.to, 123movies.market, 1-23movies.cc, 123moviesgo.tv, 123moviesgo.ac, real-123movies.best, 123movies.coffee, 123movies.review, 123movies.online, 123movies4u.li, 123moviesfun.ch, 123moviesme.online, watchseries.ninja, putlocker123.me, 123movieshub.tc, 123moviesub.io, 123movies.autos, yify-torrent.cc, 123moviesgoto.com, cineb.net, yifymovies.tv, yifytv.top, gogomovies.to, hurawatch.com, hurawatch.ru, the123movies.eu, the123movies.stream, sflix.to, x265.club, psa.one, psarips.uk, psarips.xyz, psarips.com, psarips.one, psarips.in, psarips.net, psarips.org, psarips.eu, psarips.top, movies7.to, kisscartoon.uk, kisscartoon.love, watchcartoononline.bz, dandanzan.com, dongphym.net, dongphym.com, tvhai.org, 1337x.gd, xmovies8.io, myflixer.ru, flixtor.video, flixtor.one, bflix.watch, 94itv.net, 94itv.app, tangrenjie.tv, dramacool.bz, dramacool.vc, dramacool.fm, dramacool.ai, dramacool.bid, kissasian.la, kissasian.video
The Federal Court’s judgment can be found here