Following pressure from entertainment industry groups, the Australian Government has implemented legislation which allows foreign ‘pirate’ sites to be blocked at the ISP level.
The law went into effect earlier this year but thus far no websites have been blocked. However, this may change in the near future as a small Aussie ISP recently received its first threat.
While the law mostly aims to target classic pirate sites such as The Pirate Bay and unauthorized streaming services, the first blocking demand targets a site operating in a different area.
Lawyers representing the local construction company Simonds Homes sent a request to a small ISP ordering it to block subscriber access to the website of its competitor CHM Constructions, claiming it infringes their copyrights.
The demand letter states that the ISP is obliged to take action under copyright law, citing that it may seek to enforce a blockade under Section 115’s blocking provisions, as the website is hosted abroad.
The letter is believed to be the first legal threat received by an ISP that mentions the new site blocking legislation. However, the Internet provider in question has no intention to comply.
TorrentFreak spoke with a senior employee of the ISP who asked us not to mention his name or that of his company. He told us that his company rejected the request because it’s overbroad.
“We did not honor the request because they were trying to by-pass an already flawed legislation. The copyright act of 1968, Section 115 lays out in clear terms the process a party is meant to follow,” he said.
Since the construction company has yet to obtain a court order there is no legal requirement to block the site yet. Also, the case in question appears to apply to a trademark issue instead of a copyright infringement.
In general, the ISP is not happy with the new site blocking regulation. It will make it quite costly for smaller ISPs to defend themselves against dubious claims to favor a few large entertainment industry companies.
The ISP hopes that this example will reveal how problematic the new legislation can become and he hopes that it will lead to less abusive demands in the future.
“Section 115 is a flawed policy to appease the people who donate large sums of monies to a certain political party. The legislation places an unfair financial strain on the ISP industry which is already a cut-throat industry.
“I am extremely hopefully that my actions here lead to less unwarranted blocking attempts. The legislation itself has led to this situation today however by a small ISP standing up for themselves, I am hopeful others will follow,” the ISPs senior employee concludes.
The ISP’s concerns are shared by Internet Australia, a non-profit organization which defends the rights of Internet users and businesses.
“The problem for smaller ISPs is the potential costs involved in defending a matter like this and so they simply may not bother,” Australia’s CEO Laurie Patton told ABC.
“The risk is that sites will be blocked without having been tested at law. So innocent sites could be victims of malicious actions, say, by competitors or aggrieved customers.”
It’s expected that more site blocking attempts will arrive during the months to come. Faced with this first flawed attempt, ISPs will be eager to prevent any further abuse.