Government urged to consult on anti-piracy scheme

New scheme allows rights holders to apply for injunctions to have pirate websites blocked

The Internet Society of Australia and industry group Communications Alliance have urged caution on the government's new anti-piracy scheme. Under the government's plan, ISPs can be compelled to block websites associated with copyright infringement.

Comms Alliance CEO John Stanton said that the industry was not consulted during the drafting of the bill, which the government has estimated will cost ISPs $130,825 per year to comply with.

The group has previously indicated qualified support for such a scheme.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull introduced the bill earlier today.

If the bill becomes law rights holders will be able to apply to the Federal Court for an injunction that will force an ISP to block a site that "infringes, or facilitates an infringement of" copyright.

The bill has been referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.

"We have given conditional support for this initiative but have cautioned that website blocking is a relatively blunt tool, with risks of 'collateral damage' if not applied with precision," Stanton said.

"The bill should, for example, ensure that 'online location' is precisely defined, to reduce the risk that web-sites may be unintentionally impacted when multiple websites reside under a single IP address or domain," Stanton said.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission in 2013 infamously caused ISPs to erroneously block access to thousands of websites after it requested an IP-based block under Section 313(3) of the Telecommunications Act 1997.

ASIC had intended to prevent access to a small number of fraud-related websites.

Use of that section of the Telco Act is currently subject to an inquiry.

Laurie Patton, CEO of the Internet Society of Australia, said that the bill "seems a little excessive" and called on the government to consult with his organisation "in order to make sure there are no negative unintended consequences".

"It's important for parliament to understand how the Internet actually works or we risk flawed legislation like the data retention bill that ends up having to be amended at the last minute," Patton said.

"We are also concerned about the potential costs of the scheme to industry and eventually for consumers."

Stanton said the government should ensure ISPs will be protected from legal woes when they comply with a site-blocking injunction.

Stanton said he is also concerned about the cost of the scheme.

"We are yet to see the detail of this estimate but believe that additional cost for ISPs assisting the fight against copyright infringement should be avoided," Stanton said.

The cost to ISPs of implementing and operating the government's proposed data retention regime, which will likely be passed by the Senate later today, has been a source of controversy.

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