A group of Australian music, TV and film producers have expressed their stance in a Senate review of the proposed amendment to the Copyright Act that would allow copyright holders to seek injunctions in the Federal Court to block infringing websites.
The group said that they’ve been fighting against assaults and abuses on their intellectual property for decades, and expressed their support for the proposed pirate site-blocking legislation. Representatives of the entertainment industry coaxed the Federal Government to suppress pirates and illegal downloaders.
Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA) representative Brett Cottle claimed that artists and musicians have been “bled dry by pirates,” stating:
“Australia’s creative industries – and the tens of thousands of writers who underpin those industries – have been waiting for a very long time for an expression by the Australian Parliament of support and respect for their work, and their place in the life of the nation, in the face of a two-decade long assault on their rights by way of digital piracy… It will give to creative industries, at least, a means to fight back.”
Cottle also set aside concerns about tech-savvy pirates who might try to get around the injunctions, acknowledging that “there is no silver bullet,” but it will “create a practical and feasible means by which to address the problem.” He further explains, “It will assist in changing the behaviour of Australian consumers, and most importantly, it will send a powerful, practical and symbolic message to the artists and creators of Australia.”
Comparison with pirate site-blocking overseas
Village Roadshow Films managing director Christopher Chard stated that pirate site-blocking laws have been applied in 39 countries overseas and Australia’s copyright legislation has been long overdue. He also shared that in one pirate site in the UK, an 84% decline in traffic was seen after an injunction was placed on it.
He explained, “Although some users in the UK continued to engage in illegal downloading by using dedicated and multi-site proxies, including VPNs (virtual private network), to circumvent court orders, the traffic was insignificant when compared to the overall decline in traffic to the blocked piracy site.”
In response to the criticism that site-blocking legislations might destroy the internet, the director argued:
“Site blocking injunctions do not break the internet… In the UK over the last four years, the courts have ordered 125 piracy websites to be blocked and I’ve just returned from the UK and the internet was working just fine.”
Site-blocking legislation “does not infringe on freedom of information”
The Internet Society of Australia expressed in their written submission that there’s a risk the bill could block even legitimate websites, and the site-blocking legislation could infringe on the rights of internet users to enjoy a free and open internet.
However, communications law expert Professor Michael Fraser dismissed the society’s concerns, stating that it’s simply not true. He explains:
“It is not an infringement of freedom of information. This material is available through lawful, legal channels, either where an author makes it available for free, or through their commercial sites. This is to stop criminal activity and organized infringing activity that circumvents and destroys the market for creative content.”
Support from Foxtel
Internet service provider Foxtel has also made efforts in reducing piracy by releasing content in Australia at the same time it was released in the United States, and reducing the cost of access. As such, Foxtel’s Director of Corporate Affairs Bruce Meagher urged the Australian Parliament to do their part as well, saying:
“Research indicates that many people believe that piracy is OK, because if it were not, the Government could pass a law or do something to try and stop it. This is just such a law and it will, of itself, have an educative effect.”