Australia: Court rules for pirate site blocking

Australian telcos must block access to sites infringing content copyright and divert web users towards a web page created by movie studios, the Federal court has ruled. Pay-TV operator Foxtel welcomed the decision, calling it a “major step in directly combating piracy”.

Sites such as The Pirate Bay, Torrentz, Torrent Hound, IsoHunt and SolarMovie are among those that will be blocked.

The case, which covered more than fifty Australian ISPs, saw Justice John Nicholas of the Federal Court in Sydney rule in favour of movie studios, including Roadshow Films, Colombia Pictures, Disney Studios, Paramount Pictures, and 20th Century Fox.

For their part, the studios now have to create and host a website within five days, with the ISPs obliged to redirect any user to who tries to connect to infringing site SolarMovie. Content owners will also have to pay Telstra, Optus, M2 (now Vocus Communications) and TPG a fee of A$50 for every site they want blocked.

Justice Nicholas ruled that there were 61 sites that infringed Australian copyright laws by making films available online without licence from the copyright owners. “I am satisfied that the facilitation of the infringement of copyright is flagrant, and that the operator of the The Pirate Bay sites has shown a blatant and wilful disregard for the rights of copyright owners,” he wrote.

In terms of SolarMovie, he said he was satisfied that the site was designed and operated to facilitate easy and free access to cinematograph films made available online, something which he would infer, “has almost certainly occurred without the permission of the owners of the copyright in such films”.

A previous attempt in 2012 by the studios to force ISPs to crack down on piracy failed after the High Court found they were not liable for copyright infringement. The studios were trying to make iiNet prevent customers from using BitTorrent.

Foxtel chief executive Peter Tonagh described the judgement as “a major step” in both directly combating piracy and educating the public that accessing content through these sites is not OK, in fact it is theft, adding that the operator was doing its part to reduce piracy by making content available in a timely manner, at different price points, and on multiple devices. “This judgement gives us another tool to fight the international criminals who seek to profit from the hard work of actors, writers, directors and other creators the world over,” he declared.

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