Legislation to block overseas websites found to contain copyright infringing material, or facilitate access to copyright infringing material, has been passed by the Australian Senate.
The Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015 passed with bipartisan support from Liberal and Labor, after passing the Lower House last week.
The new laws enable copyright holders to to apply to the Federal Court for an injunction requiring all Australian ISPs to block an overseas website facilitating piracy. Sites such as The Pirate Bay are expected to be blocked by the measures.
The Australian Greens voted against the laws along with 3 other senators. Senator Scott Ludlam was unsuccessful in moving amendments that would have narrowed the scope of the legislation, and completely rule out blocking VPN services.
“There is increasing evidence to suggest that site-blocking is not the most effective means of stopping piracy,” Senator Ludlam said.
“The only effective way to deal with copyright infringement on the kind of scale that the government is concerned about is to just make it available: conveniently, affordably and in a timely way.”
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission warned that film and TV companies could potentially threaten to block access to geoblocked services such as HBO Now.
Liberal Democrat Senator Leyonhjelm has also said that online sites and tools such as VPNs, cloud storage and URL shorteners could be mistakenly blocked.
“The bill is vaguely drafted and…aims to protect rights holders at everyone else’s expense, which is not how the rule of law is supposed to work,” he said. “There is no oversight or indemnities to track or protect against over blocking or other technical issues.”
But Simon Bush, head of the Australian Home Entertainment Distributors Association, said, “It’s a fantastic day and a really positive sign for the creative content industry who can invest more as a result.”
Foxtel Chief Executive, Richard Freudenstein said, “We are pleased that the Government and Opposition have taken strong action to combat online piracy. They recognise 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.”