Australian senate passes website-blocking anti-piracy bill

Australia's going to make The Pirate Bay walk the plank

It’s going to get a bit tougher for Australians to access torrent sites like The Pirate Bay and KickAss Torrents, with the Australian Senate passing a bill yesterday that aims to block piracy websites.

The Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015, which was introduced by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull in March, passed with a vote of 37-13, and was supported by both Labor and the Coalition.

The bill was opposed by the Australian Greens, as well as Liberal Party Senator David Leyonhjelm, Palmer United Party Senator Glenn Lazarus and Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party Senator Ricky Muir.

Under the legislation, rights holders will be able to propose blocking requests to a Federal Court judge, so long as the site’s primary function is in facilitating copyright infringement.

They’ll have to try hard, though – notorious torrent site The Pirate Bay has a history of thumbing its nose at government attempts to block its services.

Think VPN services will save you?

Rights holders will also be able to request the blocking of ‘Online locations’ that are used for piracy purposes, meaning that VPN services will also be in the bill’s firing line – this is surely a blow to the Australians who’ve turned to VPN services en masse since the recent Dallas Buyers Club court ruling, which gave rights holders access to the names and addresses of illegal downloaders of the film.

Simon Bush, head of the Australian Home Entertainment Distributors Association, called the passing of the bill a “watershed moment,” also stating that "It's a fantastic day and a really positive sign for the creative content industry, who can invest more as a result."

Foxtel has also welcomed the passing of the bill, with its Chief Executive, Richard Freudenstein, stating that the bill is “modelled on legislation that works effectively in other jurisdictions such as the UK, Europe and Singapore.”

Surely incensed by the record breaking Game of Thrones piracy numbers, of which Foxtel owns the Australian rights, Freudenstein continued, “there have been wild claims that it will create an “internet filter”, “break” the internet or prevent legitimate uses of the internet. International experience shows that this is simply nonsense and fear mongering – last time I looked the UK had a perfectly well functioning internet.”

Not everyone shares that sentiment however, with Australian Greens Senator Scott Ludlam calling the bill “lazy and dangerous” and further stating that “the only effective way to deal with copyright infringement on the kind of scale that the government is concerned about is to just make it available: conveniently, affordably and in a timely way."