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Australian anti-piracy laws to be strengthened

Australia’s House of Representatives has passed amendments to the Copyright Act, which, if passed in the Senate, will mean websites that provide illegal content will be blocked.

According to the Abbott Government, it is a crucial step towards wiping out Internet piracy, with Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull suggesting the changes will reduce Internet copyright infringement.

“There is no silver bullet to deal with piracy, but this bill provides an important part of the solution to the problem of online copyright infringement,” he said, adding that it was “vital” that online copyright owners have an efficient mechanism to disrupt the steady supply of infringing content to Australian Internet users from overseas-based websites.

“When infringing sources of content are disrupted, this disruption will be most effective if Australian consumers have legitimate sources to turn to that provide content at competitive prices, and at the same time that it is available overseas,” he suggested. “Furthermore, the industry code negotiated by Internet Service Providers and rights holders is intended to provide a mechanism to inform Australian consumers of legitimate sources of content.”

He clarified the use of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) in accessing services. “Where someone is using a VPN to access, for example, Netflix from the United States to get content in respect of which Netflix does not have an Australian licence, this Bill would not deal with that. If Australian rights owners have got issues about American sites selling content to Australians in respect of which they do not have Australian rights, they should take it up with them. The big boys can sort it out between themselves and leave the consumers out of it.”

Shadow Assistant Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland said the Labor opposition felt it unfortunate that the legislation favoured a “heavy-handed legislative approach” ahead of market-based reforms such as those recommended by the House of Representatives inquiry into IT pricing, and also the recent final report of the federal government’s competition policy review. “I make the point that timely and affordable content is paramount in this case,” she added.

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