Anti-piracy bill takes aim at ‘cyberlockers’, search engine…

The government has introduced a bill that will significantly widen the scope of Australia’s site-blocking laws.

Australian copyright law currently allow copyright owners or licensees to apply for a Federal Court injunction to force an Internet service provider to take steps to block their customers from accessing a site that facilitates online piracy.

[More details on the background to today’s announcement and on the current use of the site-blocking scheme are available here: New anti-piracy laws to target search engines.]

The proposed legislation — the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2018 — has four key pillars.

• Blocking file-hosting services

The current law requires that a site targeted by a blocking injunction are hosted overseas. In addition it must have as its “primary purpose” the infringement, or facilitating the infringement, of copyright.

That threshold would be altered to having the “primary purpose or the primary effect” of infringing, or facilitating the infringement of, copyright.

In an explanatory memorandum accompanying the bill, the government said that the intention of the change is to broaden the range of services subject to possible injunctions. The government said this “may include but is not limited to, some online file-hosting services, such as certain cyberlockers, which are widely used as tools for sharing infringing music and movie files”.

The government said that the threshold is still high enough that it will “exclude online locations that are primarily operated for a legitimate purpose but may contain a small proportion of infringing content”.

• Make search engines block pirate sites

One of the most consequential parts of the bill would be allowing copyright owners to apply for injunctions forcing search engines to remove pirate sites from their indexes.

If the bill is passed a site-blocking injunction may require a search engine operator to “take reasonable steps” to “not provide search results that include domain names, URLs and IP addresses that provide access to the online location and that are specified in the injunction”.

The same application may target both ISPs and search engine providers. However, the bill notes that a particular injunction may subject telcos and search providers to different terms and conditions.

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