Australia Passes Controversial Law That Blocks Popular Pirate Sites At ISP Level

The line couldn't be any more divided between politicians and consumer groups over a controversial anti-piracy bill passed in Australia. Called the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill of 2015, the measure is intended to thwart illegally downloading and sharing copyrighted film and TV shows by requiring ISPs to block access to certain sites.

To do that, a rights holder would have to take the issue to a Federal Court judge and convince him or her that an online location's "primary purpose" is to facilitate copyright infringement. If the judge agrees, Australian Internet providers would have to comply with the subsequent court order to restrict access to the location in question.

"This is a watershed moment," said Simon Bush, head of the Australian Home Entertainment Distributors Association. Bush has been pushing for website blocking laws for five years and finally has a piece of legislation to hang his hat on.

Piracy Billboard

"It's a fantastic day and a really positive sign for the creative content industry, who can invest more as a result," Bush added.

It's widely suspected that The Pirate Bay and other similar torrent sites will be the first that rights holders target. However, consumer groups and critics of the legislation worry that the bill will be abused and lead to the blocking of websites that host legal content. Furthermore, it leaves the door open for file sharing services like Dropbox to be caught in the crosshairs.

One senator called the bill "lazy and dangerous," while others had much more to say.

"It's a very dark day for the Internet in Australia because there's been bipartisan support for this Luddite censorship bill," said Dr. Matthew Rimmer, an associate professor at the ANU College of Law. "What is 'primary purpose'? There's no definition. What is 'facilitation'? Again, there's no definition."

Dr. Rimmer and other critics of the bill also point to whistleblowing sites like WikiLeaks being blocked, since the government information on such sites are typically copyrighted.