Today the first test of Australian website blocking laws is being launched. These laws were passed by the Abbott Government last year, and are now being used by Village Roadshow in an attempt to block the free movie streaming site SolarMovie.
"It took them long enough," said Simon Frew, President of Pirate Party Australia. "They have spent years campaigning for these laws, and 'donated' hundreds of thousands of dollars1,2 to both the Coalition and ALP in an attempt to put the Internet genie back into the bottle. It then took them over six months to launch their first case."
If Village Roadshow wins the case, Internet service providers will be forced to use DNS blocking, which works by breaking the link between 'human readable' domain names and IP addresses. The Communications Alliance argues that it is the most effective method of website blocking3. It also carries a serious risk of blocking websites unrelated to sites targeted by the Court order.
"This has been tried in other jurisdictions, and fails in multiple ways," Mr Frew continued. "In legal terms, website blocking has been found to be an attack on free speech, and has often fallen down due to debates around what exactly was considered infringing on copyright. Website blocking has been the subject of proceedings in the Netherlands where it was rejected on appeal, but remains the subject of ongoing proceedings at both the national and European Union levels4."
In 2014 Pirate Party Australia successfully crowdfunded to pay for a formal legal translation of the Dutch ruling that determined that website blocking is ineffective and disproportionate5.
"On technical grounds, DNS blocking is trivial to get around, making the court orders essentially useless. Users just have to change their DNS settings to point to a different server6 and they are back on the uncensored Internet. There is also a serious risk of over-blocking. This has already occurred in Australia when ASIC inadvertently blocked the Melbourne Free University website in an attempt to block a known phishing website, affecting hundreds of thousands of other websites7. Finally, the target websites could merely mirror their services at another IP address, starting what will become an expensive game of whack-a-mole for copyright holders with no end.
"If the Government is serious about addressing piracy it would implement recommendations of the IT Pricing Inquiry8 such as allowing people to circumvent geoblocking measures. Such measures — in conjunction with content providers allowing people to purchase goods in the formats they wish, for the devices they wish, and in a timely and fairly priced manner — will do far more to tackle online copyright infringement than ham-fisted attempts at Internet censorship. The rapid uptake of Netflix by Australian consumers demonstrates that we are willing to pay for quality and fairly-priced goods and services.
"Rights holders need to do more to make their content accessible when and how people want to access media, instead of trying to impose a censorship regime on the people of Australia," Mr Frew concluded.
Pirate Party Australia has a comprehensive copyright reform policy as part of its policy platform available at: http://platform.pirateparty.org.au