News & Analysis

Australian Senate passes anti-piracy legislation to crack down on torrenting and streaming sites

- June 23, 2015 2 MIN READ

The Australian Senate last night passed anti-piracy website blocking legislation, with streaming and torrenting sites like The Pirate Bay its main targets.

The Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015, which was introduced to Parliament by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull in March, was passed with bipartisan support from the Coalition and the Labor Party in the lower house last week.

This support continued in the Senate, where the bill passed 37 to 13. The Australian Greens and Senators Ricky Muir, Glenn Lazarus, and David Leyonhjelm were those voting against it.

The legislation will allow copyright holders, such as movie and television producers and distributors, to go to the Federal Court in order to get ISPs to block overseas-based websites that allow people to download content that infringes on their copyright. It will also allow copyright holders to block access to VPNs which allow consumers to get around geoblocks.

Senator Scott Ludlam, the Greens’ communications spokesman, told the Senate yesterday that as well as potentially seeing legitimate online sources get blocked, the legislation is likely to be an ineffective solution to a much wider problem facing the Australian media and internet landscape.

He said it is the media distributors and software developers themselves treating Australia like an “island market where they can charge much higher prices and release stuff much later” that has led to people infringing copyright.

“The only effective way really to deal with copyright infringement on the kind of the scale that the government is concerned about is to just make [content] available conveniently, affordably and in a timely way,” he said.

“The distribution model where you could sit on your 20th century distribution bottleneck and put a property up on screen, and then wait for two months and do the TV release, and then wait another two months and release it on DVD – that model is broken, that model worked before the internet existed.”

Ludlam said that Australians are willing to pay to get content at the same time the rest of the world does, pointing out the quick take up of Netflix upon its Australian launch earlier this year.

However, Richard Freudenstein, Foxtel CEO, congratulated the Government and Opposition on the passing of the legislation, saying, “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 endeavours.”