Media union backs Australian piracy blocking plan

A media union has endorsed the Australian government's proposal to block websites containing material that infringes copyright

A union representing media, artists, and journalists has endorsed the Australian government's proposal to block websites containing material that infringes copyright.

In a submission to a government discussion paper, the Media, Entertainment, and Arts Alliance (MEAA) said rights-holders should be able to seek injunctions to block copyright-infringing websites.

The submission, first reported on ZDNet, welcomes the government’s recognition that rights-holders cannot take enforcement action against overseas-based websites and that action needs to be directed at internet service providers (ISPs).

“Some ISPs will no doubt argue that consumers will get around the injunction by using proxy sites. However, clearly anything that makes piracy more complicated and time-consuming will reduce its incidence,” the MEAA said.

The union calls for “extended authorisation liability” to penalise ISPs if they fail to take reasonable steps to remove information when notified of copyright infringements.

“We note reports that, in the UK, where site blocking has been implemented, the use of Pirate Bay declined by 60% after it was blocked,” the MEAA said.

Legislative developments

The UK’s ruling on The Pirate Bay followed a High Court landmark ruling which ordered BT to block access to pirate content aggregator website Newzbin2.

The Newzbin2 ruling set a precedent that made it easier for content producers to bring similar proceedings against UK ISPs that enable access to copyright-infringing sites.

The MEAA’s submission is partly aimed at reducing the impact of a landmark 2012 high court decision between iiNet and Roadshow Films, reports The Guardian.

The court found iiNet had not authorised the infringement of Roadshow’s films that were downloaded by their customers using BitTorrent.

But the decision has stymied the attempts of film companies to restrict access to file-sharing services, where dissemination of films and TV shows is widespread.

“We believe that the government’s proposals will, with some modifications, provide an opportunity to address the failings of the legislation exposed by the iiNet judgement,” the MEAA said.

Protecting livelihoods

The union said that, while the Australian government's proposal may not eliminate piracy, seriously reducing copyright infringement will save many creative professionals’ livelihoods.

MEAA said piracy is taking place on a commercial scale through predominantly overseas-based sites and represents a transfer of wealth away from Australia’s creative workers to illegal foreign websites.

The most recent steps in the UK to protect creative content include an ad-replacement campaign on websites that provide unauthorised access to copyrighted content.

The campaign by the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (Pipcu) aims to cut advertising revenues to such sites by replacing ads with warnings that the site is under criminal investigation.

A UK anti-piracy campaign – aimed at educating people about copyright and legal ways to download digital content – is set to begin in 2015.

Emails will be sent to UK internet users who pirate films and music, warning them that their actions are illegal.

Those suspected of copyright infringement will be sent up to four warnings a year, but the campaign does not include punitive action.

Earlier this year, music and film industry bodies backed away from demands for punitive measures – such as disconnecting offenders from the internet – in favour of an education campaign.

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