Prospect of IP-based blocking to fight piracy raised in court

Village Roadshow takes legal action to stop set-top box streaming services

Internet service providers could potentially have to block IP addresses linked to illicit streaming services, the Federal Court heard today, unless a website block requested by Village Roadshow is implemented swiftly.

Village Roadshow is seeking a Federal Court injunction to hobble an Android streaming app that can be used in conjunction with set-top boxes, smart TVs and other devices that use Google’s mobile platform.

In previous cases where Roadshow and others have sought to block websites and services associated with piracy, ISPs have had the option of implementing blocks using their choice of domain-, URL- and IP-based blocking. So far, ISPs have chosen to implement DNS blocking.

However today Roadshow said there was some urgency associated with its latest application for injunction because the application it is targeting – HDSubs+ - is undergoing an update that replaces it with a version that does not rely on domain names for streaming.

Roadshow indicated that it may be compelled to seek IP blocking unless it is granted a swift hearing for its application. If it did seek orders compelling ISPs to block particular IP addresses, the telcos that are subject to the proposed injunction – Telstra, Optus, Vocus, TPG and the companies’ subsidiaries – may feel compelled to enter a court appearance.

The first series of website blocks sought under Australian copyright law (by Roadshow, Foxtel, and representatives of the music industry) saw rights holders and ISPs clash in court over a number of issues including the form of a final injunction, legal costs and the costs of implementing website blocks.

Since then, rights holders have stuck to the form of orders handed down in those cases and telcos have not appeared in court to oppose them.

Roadshow’s current application before the court follows the same format, but the company indicated that since it attempted to communicate with the developer/publisher of HDSubs+ three weeks ago, it has noticed a “dramatic change” in the app.

Users are being offered an update, the court heard: If they decline, the app ceases to function. If they accept, it is replaced with an app labelled PressPlayPlus. That app functions the same as HDSubs+, but no longer relies on the domain names listed in Roadshow’s application.

The company said the 10 domains and IP addresses listed in its application facilitate updates for HDSubs+, as well as subscriptions to the service and streaming.

Roadshow said the company wanted to “cut off the flow and stem the bleed” through a quickly implemented site block that offered telcos the standard options of blocking methods.

Roadshow will return to court on 15 December for a case management hearing.

The company is not alone in seeking to block unauthorised set-top box streaming.

Hong Kong broadcaster Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB) is also seeking to block the online services employed by seven Android-based set-top boxes. TVB says that A1, BlueTV, EVPAD, FunTV, MoonBox, Unblock, and hTV5 stream a range of its copyright content including free-to-air TV broadcasts.

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