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Senate Passes Anti-Piracy, Website Blocking Bill

Senate Passes Anti-Piracy, Website Blocking BillThe bill creates an avenue for copyright owners to apply to the Federal Court of Australia for an order requiring internet service providers to block access to a foreign online location.

It has been described by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull as “an important part of the solution to the problem of online copyright infringement”, however has provoked debate that it could in future be used beyond its intended scope.

Australian Greens Senator Scott Ludlam has been vocal in his opposition to the bill, labelling it “a lazy and dangerous piece of legislation”.

“By resorting to site blocking in an attempt to reduce copyright infringement, the government is using a sledgehammer to crack a nut,” Ludlam stated. “This poorly drafted bill may open the way for the courts to criminalise the legitimate use of VPNs, will be trivial to circumvent, wide open to scope-creep in the future and does nothing to advance genuine copyright reform.  

“The government is ignoring the opportunity to work with content providers and remove the reasons for people currently accessing content through torrents and other sources. Just deliver content in a timely and affordable manner, and piracy collapses.”

Turnbull, however, has previously stated that the bill is not intended to apply to VPNs.

“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, because you could not say that Netflix in the United States has as its primary purpose the infringement, or facilitation of the infringement, of copyright,” he had stated.

“This is a very important point to make. 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.”

While the Greens opposed the bill, it was passed with the support of Labor, 37-13.

Fairfax Media quoted Dr Matthew Rimmer, an associate professor at the ANU College of Law and one of the bill’s critics, as labelling it “quite radical”.

“It’s a very dark day for the internet in Australia because there’s been bipartisan support for this Luddite censorship bill,” Fairfax quoted Rimmer as stating.