Foxtel Targets 128 Torrent & Streaming Domains For Blocking Down Under

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Foxtel has returned to the Federal Court in Sydney, Australia, with another application to have 'pirate' sites blocked in the country. In this round, the pay TV giant is requesting that 128 domains linked to movie and TV piracy are rendered inaccessible by Australia's major ISPs. The presiding judge today likened the process to "whack-a-mole".

In 2015, Australia passed controversial legislation which allows ‘pirate’ sites located on servers overseas to be blocked at the ISP level.

“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,” commented then Foxtel chief executive Richard Freudenstein.

Before, during and after its introduction, Foxtel has positioned itself as a keen supporter of the resulting Section 115a of the Copyright Act. And in December 2016, with the law firmly in place, it celebrated success after obtaining a blocking injunction against The Pirate Bay, Torrentz, TorrentHound and isoHunt.

In May, Foxtel filed a new application, demanding that almost 50 local ISPs block what was believed to be a significant number of ‘pirate’ sites not covered by last year’s order.

Today the broadcasting giant was back in Federal Court, Sydney, to have this second application heard under Section 115a. It was revealed that the application contains 128 domains, each linked to movie and TV piracy.

According to ComputerWorld, the key sites targeted are as follows: YesMovies, Vumoo, LosMovies, CartoonHD, Putlocker, Watch Series 1, Watch Series 2, Project Free TV 1, Project Free TV 2, Watch Episodes, Watch Episode Series, Watch TV Series, The Dare Telly, Putlocker9.is, Putlocker9.to, Torlock and 1337x.

The Foxtel application targets both torrent and streaming sites but given the sample above, it seems that the latter is currently receiving the most attention. Streaming sites are appearing at a rapid rate and can even be automated to some extent, so this battle could become extremely drawn out.

Indeed, Justice Burley, who presided over the case this morning, described the website-blocking process (which necessarily includes targeting mirrors, proxies and replacement domains) as akin to “whack-a-mole”.

“Foxtel sees utility in orders of this nature,” counsel for Foxtel commented in response. “It’s important to block these sites.”

In presenting its application, Foxtel conducted live demonstrations of Yes Movies, Watch Series, 1337x, and Putlocker. It focused on the Australian prison drama series Wentworth, which has been running on Foxtel since 2013, but also featured tests of Game of Thrones.

Justice Burley told the court that since he’s a fan of the series, a spoiler-free piracy presentation would be appreciated. If the hearing had taken place a few days earlier, spoilers may have been possible. Last week, the latest episode of the show leaked onto the Internet from an Indian source before its official release.

Justice Burley’s decision will be handed down at a later date, but it’s unlikely there will be any serious problems with Foxtel’s application. After objecting to many aspects of blocking applications in the past, Australia’s ISPs no longer appear during these hearings. They are now paid AU$50 per domain blocked by companies such as Foxtel and play little more than a technical role in the process.

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