Last night the Abbott government ushered through its controversial site-blocking amendments to the Copyright Act. Copyright holders in Australia can now request a Federal Court injunction requiring all ISPs to block websites that “facilitate copyright infringement”.
It’s an issue that Crikey readers will be familiar with. We’ve followed it closely since publishing this leaked discussion paper outlining the scheme last year.
As we have reported repeatedly, all available evidence suggests that site-blocking doesn’t work to prevent piracy — and watch out, because similar schemes overseas have been used to block sites that fall far outside of their remit, sometimes deliberately. In the UK, where site-blocking laws are already in place, websites such as the BBC’s Radio Times, news and discussion site Torrentfreak, and Google docs have all been blocked.
Site-blocking is also painfully technology-specific. “The history of piracy is one of constant innovation as users and software writers devise ever-better ways of sharing content, and apps that enable piracy are now spreading that are impossible to block,” as Bernard Keane wrote earlier this month.
But perhaps the most disturbing part of the bill is that it was drafted widely enough to enable the copyright industry to demand ISPs block access to sites providing encryption and anonymisation services, such as virtual private networks. The government denies that this is the intention of the bill, but — revealingly — has refused to amend it to remove VPNs from its remit.
When coupled with our new data retention laws, these amendments could represent a serious erosion of your privacy.
With the backing of Shorten’s opposition, this bill was always going to sail through our house of review. In the end, only 13 senators voted against it. You can send your notes of thanks to: Scott Ludlam, David Leyonhjelm, Ricky Muir, Glenn Lazarus, and the Greens.
*An earlier version of this piece included Independent Senator Jacqui Lambie as one of the senators who voted against the bill. Hansard appears to have included her name rather than Scott Ludlam’s, who is mysteriously recorded as absent for the vote on a bill he lead the debate on in the Senate. Crikey apologises to Senator Lambie, whose views on internet censorship remain unclear.
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