Government hopes to pass site-blocking legislation next month

Attorney-general also says Australian copyright law should be subject to 'root and branch' reform

Attorney-General George Brandis is hoping the government can push through parliament before the end of June proposed legislation that will force ISPs to block sites linked to online piracy.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull in March introduced the <i>Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015</i> into parliament.

The bill would allow representatives of copyright holders to apply for court orders that would force Internet service providers to block access to a website linked to piracy.

"We hope to have that legislation through the parliament before parliament rises for the winter recess," Brandis told a Senate Estimates hearing today.

The House of Representatives and the Senate will sit from 15 June to 25 June, according to parliament's sitting calendar. If the government fails to get the bill through in June, it would be pushed back to at least August.

Copyright reform

Brandis also said that the government was interested in broader reform of the Copyright Act

"The Copyright Act in its current form is an act of 1968 when John Gorton was the prime minister and there are many who are of the view, and I am one of them, that the time is upon us for a comprehensive review of the Copyright Act," the attorney-general told the hearing.

"The day is upon us I think ... when we do need a comprehensive root and branch reform of the Copyright Act but that is not the work of a few months — that is a major, major piece of law reform and when the government has an announcement to make, we will make that announcement."

However, Brandis made clear that the government is unlikely to be implementing the recommendation of a 2013 report from the Australian Law Reform Commission that a technologically neutral fair use provision be introduced.

The ALRC's Copyright and the Digital Economy report said that introducing a fair use provision in copyright law would assist innovation and promote the public interest.

"In relation to the Law Reform Commission report I have been on the public record as saying ... I'm not persuaded about a general fair use exemption," Brandis said.

Site-blocking inquiry

The government's website-blocking bill has been the subject of a parliamentary inquiry. That inquiry is expected to table its report tomorrow.

The inquiry has held only a single public hearing, which was attended by two senators.

The bill's proposals have drawn ire from consumer advocates and opponents of censorship. It has been publicly supported by representatives of content industries.

Another major component of the government's move to boost online copyright enforcement is the introduction of a 'three strikes' code that will involve ISP customers alleged to have engaged in illicit downloads being sent warning notices.

Significant parts of that code are still the subject of negotiations between telcos and rights holders it was revealed today.

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