Australian Parliament Passes Tough New Anti-Piracy Law

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The Australian Parliament has passed controversial amendments to copyright law. There will now be a tightened site-blocking regime that will tackle mirrors and proxies more effectively, restrict the appearance of blocked sites in Google search, and introduce the possibility of blocking 'dual-use' cyberlocker type sites.

Section 115a of Australia’s Copyright Act allows copyright holders to apply for injunctions to force ISPs to prevent subscribers from accessing ‘pirate’ sites. While rightsholders say that it’s been effective to a point, they have lobbied hard for improvements.

The resulting Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2018 contained proposals to close the loopholes. After receiving endorsement from the Senate earlier this week, the legislation was today approved by Parliament.

Once the legislation comes into force, proxy and mirror sites that appear after an injunction against a ‘pirate’ site has been granted can be blocked by ISPs without the parties having to return to court. Assurances have been given, however, that the court will retain some oversight.

Search engines, such as Google and Bing, will also be affected. Accused of providing “backdoor” access to sites that have already been blocked, search providers will now have to remove or demote links to overseas-based infringing sites, along with their proxies and mirrors.

Finally, “online locations” outside Australia with a “primary purpose of infringing” that are currently subject to blocking on application will be joined by sites with “the primary effect” of infringing or facilitating infringement. This opens the door for the blocking of general purpose file-hosting sites.

Announcing the adoption of the amendments by Parliament today, the Government said that the Bill will give rightsholders enhanced ability to fight copyright infringement.

Minister for Communications and the Arts Mitch Fifield noted that there will now be “less room” for pirates to circumvent Australia’s existing measures.

“The Government has zero tolerance for online piracy. It is theft, and damaging to our creative economy and local creators. We are committed to protecting Australia’s creative industries and the world-class content we produce every year,” Minister Fifield said.

“The passage of our legislation today sends a strong message to online pirates that Australia does not tolerate online theft.”

While negotiations have been underway for months, the amendments were only introduced in October, a stark contrast to proposed amendments to EU law which have moved at a glacial pace through the corridors of power in Europe.

The Australian Government will review the effectiveness of the new amendments in two years’ time.


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