Music industry happy with less stringent website blocking in pirate fight

Labels not seeking rolling injunction

A group of music labels and licensing organisation APRA AMCOS are seeking a more limited form of website blocking than Foxtel and Village Roadshow in their efforts to curb piracy.

A directions hearing for what is the third application to be made for website blocks under a new legal regime introduced last year was held this morning in the Federal Court in Sydney.

ARIA members Universal Music Australia, Warner Music Australia, Sony Music Entertainment Australia and J Albert & Son, along with APRA AMCOS, have launched the action, which seeks to block access to Kickass Torrents and a number of proxy sites.

Telstra, Optus and TPG along with the ISPs’ subsidiaries (including TPG’s iiNet) are listed in the application. In addition, Foxtel – which has itself applied to have ISPs block access to pirate websites – is a respondent. (Unlike the other actions, M2 is not listed.)

The application is being co-ordinated by Music Rights Australia on behalf of the ARIA members that are party to the court action and APRA AMCOS.

The labels are seeking an injunction under changes to the Copyright Act made last year by federal parliament as part of a government crackdown on online copyright infringement.

The court action takes place concurrently with the separate applications by Foxtel and Village.

The key elements of the dispute between the ISPs and the rights holders are the same across all three applications: Who will pay for implementing the site blocks and for the cost of the legal proceedings.

However, the music labels noted today that that they are seeking a more limited site blocks.

Unlike the Foxtel and Village applications, which have involved applications for so-called rolling injunctions which can be modified if a site resurfaces with a different IP or domain name, the labels are seeking only to have blocked a number of domain names linked to Kickass Torrents.

All parties indicated today that they didn’t expect a dispute over the music labels’ standing to make a site-blocking application and the ISPs said that they did not intend to argue the nature of Kickass Torrents.

The Foxtel/Village applications are being heard by Justice Nicholas, while the music labels’ application is being heard by Justice Katzmann. The situation is complicated by Foxtel being an applicant in one matter and a respondent, thanks to its ISP business, in another.

Foxtel’s lawyer today told the court that it is keen to ensure consistency in the orders made, including the scope of the injunction granted and the issue of costs.

She told the court that Foxtel expects a streamlined process and set of orders to be produced out of the applications being heard by Nicholas. Foxtel doesn’t want parallel sets of proceedings debating “slightly different orders”.

Telstra noted that although the scope of the site-blocking injunction sought is narrower than that sought by Foxtel and Village, it was concerned that it lacked safeguards currently being discussed by the parties in relation to the other applications (for example, allowing an exception to a site block to be made if requested by the Australian Federal Police).

The lawyers for the ISPs noted that their view on the music labels’ application could be altered by how the matter heard by Nicholas unfolded.

In response, Katzmann has scheduled a case management hearing for 11 July, which will be after the two-three day June hearing of the other applications before Nicholas.

A hearing on the labels' application has been tentatively scheduled for 25 and 26 October.

Computerworld has made available copies of the three applications from rights holders:

Follow Rohan on Twitter: @rohan_p

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Tags copyrightpiracycopyright infringement

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