Australia Passes ‘Pirate’ Site Blocking Law

A few minutes ago Australia passed controversial new legislation which allows for overseas 'pirate' sites to be blocked at the ISP level. Despite opposition from the Greens, ISPs and consumer groups, the Senate passed the bill into law with a vote of 37 in favor and 13 against. Expect The Pirate Bay to be an early target.

stopstopFollowing intense pressure from entertainment industry groups, late 2014 Australia’s Attorney-General George Brandis and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull asked the Cabinet to develop legislation which would allow ‘pirate’ sites to be blocked at the ISP level.

In March 2015 the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015 (pdf) was introduced to parliament and earlier this month it received the green light following a parliamentary committee investigation.

A few moments ago and following just three months of consideration by parliament, the Australian Senate passed the legislation into law. The net result is that in the months and years to come, sites like The Pirate Bay will become inaccessible by regular direct means to most local Internet users.

While there will be celebrations in Hollywood, not everyone in the process is happy with the outcome. The Australian Greens outright rejected the legislation, a position shared by several independents. ISPs and technology companies also complained about elements of the legislation, alongside consumer groups such as Choice who expressed concern that the scope of the law could be expanded in future.

In the final count, 37 voted in favor and 13 against, with the Coalition and Labor in favor and the Greens and three other senators voting against. Labor joined the government to vote down several amendments tabled by the Greens aimed at narrowing the scope of the legislation.

Despite an effort by the government to calm nerves last week by ensuring consumers that VPNs won’t be targeted by the legislation, a specific exemption for VPN providers was rejected.

The legislation does not detail who will pay the ISPs’ costs associated with blocking websites. Earlier this month it was noted by a parliamentary committee that costs should “primarily be borne by those parties who are seeking the remedy” but nothing firm has been agreed thus far.

The passing of the law was welcomed by Foxtel Chief Executive, Richard Freudenstein.

“We are pleased that the Government and Opposition have taken strong action to combat online piracy. They recognize that, not only is piracy theft and therefore morally wrong, it is harmful to Australia’s creative communities and to businesses that employ hundreds of thousands of Australians,” Freudenstein said.

“These offshore sites are not operated by noble spirits fighting for the freedom of the internet, they are run by criminals who profit from stealing other people’s creative endeavors.”

The Bill will now be sent to the Governor-General for royal assent at which point it will become effective immediately.

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