There’s some doubt as to whether blockades work but the companies behind them appear happy to commit significant legal resources to have them implemented wherever legislation allows.
Australia is one of the few regions where site blocking is specifically baked into local law so it’s no surprise that once entertainment groups got going with successful applications, they would be difficult to rein back.
In a new show of force, Village Roadshow Films and Hollywood partners Disney, Twentieth Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, Columbia Pictures, Universal, Warner Bros have been joined by Hong Kong-based Television Broadcasts Limited and Aussie distributor Madman Entertainment Pty Limited.
Together the companies have filed the broadest-ever blocking injunction at the Federal Court. If it succeeds – and there’s nothing thus far to suggest that the application won’t be successful – it will compel Australia’s ISPs to block a record-setting 151 domains related to 77 ‘pirate’ sites.
ComputerWorld, which first reported the news, notes that Telstra, Optus, Vocus, TPG and their subsidiaries are named as respondents in the case. In addition, Vodafone becomes a respondent in a blocking case for the first time, after confirming its entry to the fixed-line broadband market.
The injunction application seeks to protect many high-profile movies and TV shows owned by the entertainment companies including The Lego Movie, Dunkirk, Tron: Legacy, and Kingsman: The Secret Service, to The Big Bang Theory and Shameless.
Aside from Madman Entertainment Pty, all of the other companies involved in the current coalition have previously filed for blocking injunctions of their own.
In addition to several successful previous actions, Village Roadshow and several Hollywood studios won a blocking injunction in April against a pirate IPTV service.
Hong Kong-based Television Broadcasts Limited is currently tied up in a case of its own after applying for a blocking injunction last year against several unauthorized IPTV services.
Under the Copyright Act, the broadcaster asked the Federal Court to order ISPs including Telstra, Optus, Vocus, and TPG plus their subsidiaries to block access to seven Android-based services named as A1, BlueTV, EVPAD, FunTV, MoonBox, Unblock, and hTV5. However, the application is complex and a final decision is still pending.
After fighting their corners for years, the ISPs targeted in these actions now let these applications go unchallenged. None appear in court and are happy for Australia’s custom site-blocking legislation to do its work. The ISPs are left with the choice of how to block (DNS and/or IP address blocking, for example) and are given AUS$50 per domain to help with costs.
As a side note, 2018 marks the 10-year anniversary of Aussie ISPs being dragged into the copyright wars. In 2008, iiNet was sued by Village Roadshow and the Hollywood companies behind the current blocking application.
They argued that the ISP was responsible for the infringements of its customers but after an epic battle, that eventually ended up at the High Court, the studios lost their case.
With ISPs presumably safe and suggestions that users could be sued still sitting in the background, site-blocking is currently the preferred anti-piracy measure Down Under.
In February, the Australian government launched a review of its pirate site-blocking laws, with the Department of Communications seeking feedback on the effectiveness of the mechanism, from initial injunction application through to website blocking itself.
While no major changes are expected as a result of the review, a tune-up here and there, to further assist rightsholders, is the most likely outcome longer term.