Foxtel seeks to slam door on prison drama pirates

Pay TV company’s third application for website blocks targets 15 streaming and BitTorrent services

Credit: Foxtel

Foxtel has returned to Federal Court for its third application for an injunction to stop Australians accessing a range of sites it says facilitate infringement of its copyright, including by providing unauthorised access to its prison drama Wentworth.

Foxtel is seeking to block 15 online services that provide access to streaming and BitTorrent services. In total, the company wants 28 separate domains blocked by Australia’s biggest broadband providers.

Listed as respondents – the ISPs that will be affected if the application is successful – are Australia’s biggest ISPs: Optus, Vocus, Telstra and TPG. The telcos’ subsidiaries, including iiNet, Primus, Dodo, M2 Wholesale, Internode, Westnet, and Adam Internet, are also listed as respondents.

The telcos did not enter an appearance – upholding a pattern set following the conclusion of the first crop of site-blocking applications, which saw rights holders and ISPs argue over costs.

Foxtel is targeting 10 online streaming services: HDO, HDEuropix, 123Hulu, Watch32, Sockshare, NewEpisodes, 1Movies, 5Movies, WatchFreeMovies and SeriesTop.

Those sites, Foxtel alleges, either provide directly or through a ‘frame’ access to a range of copyright material, including season 3, 4 and 5 of Wentworth.

The application for injunction also seeks to have Internet service providers (ISPs) block their customers from accessing five sites either directly offering or linking to BitTorrent services. Foxtel lists the BitTorrent sites as ETTV, MagnetDL, Torrent Download, Torrent Room, and Torrents.me.

At a case-management hearing in April, Foxtel indicated it was keen to find ways of reducing the financial burden of site-blocking applications. The pay TV company said it planned to ditch the live demonstrations that have become a feature of site-blocking hearings. It also indicated its preference to have the application dealt with ‘on the papers’ instead of heard in court; a preference that was not shared by the presiding judge, Justice Nicholas.

At today’s hearing, in lieu of a live demonstration the company tendered videos of a Foxtel employee using the sites it seeks to have blocked. Four of the videos – featuring HDO, Torrents.me, 123Hulu and ETTV – were played to the court.

The current application by Foxtel is a ‘conventional’ site-blocking application in that it lists web-based streaming and BitTorrent sites (Although Torrents.me was described by Foxtel as a “hybrid” BitTorrent site that offered access to a range of other BitTorrent services as well as a search function.)

The two most recent site-blocking applications prior to Foxtel’s broke new ground by targeting Android-based services designed for set-top boxes.

In April, the court granted an application by Roadshow to block domains linked to the HDSubs+ app, which can be used to stream copyright content to set-top boxes.

Currently before the court is another application, brought by Hong Kong company Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB), that seeks to hobble seven set-top boxes (A1, BlueTV, EVPAD, FunTV, MoonBox, Unblock, and hTVS). The application is awaiting judgement. It is somewhat complicated by uncertainty surrounding the copyright status in Australia of some of TVB’s broadcasts.

Foxtel was one of the first rights holder organisations to employ the site-blocking mechanism introduced into Australian copyright law in 2015. The changes to the Copyright Act allow rights holders to apply for Federal Court injunctions that require a telecommunications provider to block its subscribers from accessing an overseas-based online service that has the primary purpose of infringing or facilitating infringement of copyright.

Foxtel and Village Roadshow have been the most prolific users of the site-blocking provisions.

Foxtel has so far successfully applied to have telcos block more than 20 different online services.

Foxtel has called on the federal government to consider expanding the site-blocking regime, allowing rights holders to apply for injunctions that would affect a range of online service providers such as search engines and social-media sites.

Justice Nicholas indicated that a swift judgement could be expected, possibly as soon as 21 June.

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Tags Telecommunicationspiracyfoxtelcopyright infringementsite blocking laws

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