Piracy crackdown: Website blocking to get a lot quicker, cheaper

Court process to be streamlined, with telcos not expected to appear in court

Computer piracy

Computer keyboard with the pirate's symbol on the Enter key.

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dreamstime_11507389

Computer piracy

Computer keyboard with the pirate's symbol on the Enter key.

access, business, chain, communication, computer, concept, connect, connection, copyright, crime, data, email, encryption, guard, hack, hacker, handcuffs, idea, identity, illegal, information, internet, keyboard, legal, lock, network, online, password, peer, piracy, prison, dreamstime

dreamstime_11507389

Court action by copyright holders seeking to have Internet service providers (ISPs) block their customers from accessing a range of piracy-linked websites is set to become a lot quicker and, consequently, cheaper.

Telcos targeted by Village Roadshow in its latest Federal Court application for a site block have confirmed that they have no intention of entering an appearance in court. The only possible exception is TPG – with the telco indicating that should Roadshow change the site-blocking orders it is seeking, or the court be inclined to vary them, it would seek to appear in court.

Along with TPG, Telstra, Optus and Vocus are named in the Roadshow application.

The telcos’ decision means that the hearing, which will take place in May, is expected to last only half a day – significantly shorter than the hearings for the first applications by Roadshow and Foxtel, which were heard jointly.

Roadshow will only have to convince the court that the sites engage in or facilitate the infringement of its copyright, that they are hosted overseas and that it has made efforts to contact the sites’ operators.

A case management hearing for the application was held today in Sydney.

The presiding judge – Justice Nicholas – indicated he was keen to streamline the process, suggesting that a consistent glossary be used for the applications (to avoid “30-page affidavits that start with, ‘This is how the Internet works’”) and that live demonstrations of sites instead of large collections of screenshots could be more effective.

(Though he noted that the applicant would have to provide its own Internet access – the judge was not keen for pirate sites to be accessed using the Federal Court’s Internet link.)

Schedules of evidence would be “much more helpful than many pages of written submissions,” Justice Nicholas said.

The application, if successful, will affect customers of Telstra, Optus, Vocus and TPG as well as customers of those ISPs’ subsidiaries, such as iiNet, Internode and Dodo.

Computerworld has published the full list of sites targeted. Forty-one sites are targeted by Roadshow, and counsel for the company today told the court that some details may change by the time of the hearing.

Roadshow launched the second wave of its anti-piracy efforts in February. In its half-year results, the company had foreshadowed the anti-piracy crackdown.

Roadshow’s court action against sites it says facilitate piracy follows the successful applications for injunction last year by the entertainment company and Foxtel.

The Federal Court granted site-blocking applications that compelled Australia’s biggest ISPs to block access to Solar Movie, The Pirate Bay, Torrentz, TorrentHound and IsoHunt.

Roadshow and Foxtel last year clashed with ISPs over a number of issues relating to the applications, including which party should pay for the cost of imposing a site block. The telcos did not take a stance on whether the sites should or should not be blocked.

In the new application, Roadshow has modelled its proposed court orders on those handed down by the judge that case: Roadshow will pay ISPs $50 per domain name blocked.

The new application also follows the orders in another important respect. In the previous court action, Roadshow had sought the right to add mirror and proxy sites of the targeted pirate sites to the list of those the ISPs were compelled to block. ISPs fought — successfully — for a court process to provide oversight.

As a result, Roadshow and Foxtel are required to file an affidavit with the court if, for example, a site shifts to a new domain or URL. Roadshow is not seeking to recontest the issue and its proposed orders in the current matter would see it follow the affidavit process to block proxies.

Under the proposed orders, an ISP must redirect customers that attempt to access a blocked site to a landing page hosted either by the ISP or set up by Roadshow.

The site blocks sought will operate for three years, Roadshow proposes.

A separate site-blocking application has been launched by Australian music labels, which are seeking to have Telstra, Optus, TPG and Foxtel’s broadband arm block access to Kickass Torrents. A judgement is yet to be handed down in that case.

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