Australia: Court orders KickassTorrents site-blocking

Australia’s Federal Court has handed down its judgment in Universal Music Australia & Ors v TPG & Ors (the KickassTorrents case). The case began in April 2016, when Universal, along with several other members of the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) and the Australasian music collecting society APRA|AMCOS, filed an application seeking to have access to KickassTorrents, the popular piracy website, blocked in Australia.

The KickassTorrents case is the third to be decided under s 115A of the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth), which was inserted into the Copyright Act by the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Act 2015. Section 115A allows a court to order a carriage service provider to block access to overseas websites that facilitate copyright infringement.

Universal Music sought the implementation of Domain Name System (DNS) blocking by the Respondent Internet Service Providers (ISPs), which include TPG, Optus, Telstra and Foxtel. The DNS blocking system was to be supported by a scheme to block ‘clone’ sites that use the KickassTorrents name, as well as proxy sites.

Although KickassTorrents was shut down in July 2016 when Artem Vaulin, the alleged owner of the website, was arrested in Poland and charged with criminal copyright infringement in the US, the Australian case against KickassTorrents nevertheless proceeded.

The Federal Court has ordered that:

  • Access to the KickassTorrents “targeted online locations” be disabled for a period of three years;
  • The respondents direct users seeking to access the “targeted online locations” to a webpage;
  • The applicants establish and maintain a webpage explaining why access to the targeted online sites has been disabled; and
  • Pay costs of A$50 (€34.38) for each DNS blocked and other costs as agreed or ordered.

KickassTorrents has already been blocked in several countries, including the UK, Ireland, Italy, Denmark, Belgium and Malaysia.

The Australian case comes shortly after the decisions in the SolarMovie and The Pirate Bay cases, which were handed down in December 2016. In a single judgment, the Federal Court ordered that SolarMovie and The Pirate Bay were to be blocked by ISPs for an initial period of three years, and that the applicants were to pay a portion of the ISPs’ compliance costs.

In light of the success of the SolarMovie and The Pirate Bay cases, in February 2017, media group Village Roadshow commenced a new application with the Federal Court, seeking to block access to 41 websites including WatchSeries, Putlocker and MegaShare.

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