Entertainment companies join forces in major push to block pirate sites

Vodafone broadband customers targeted for the first time

Village Roadshow Films and a group of film studios — Disney, Twentieth Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, Columbia Pictures, Universal, Warner Bros — have been joined by Hong Kong company Television Broadcasts Limited (and subsidiary TVBO Production Limited) as well as Australian entertainment distributor Madman Entertainment Pty Limited in a push to significantly expand the range of piracy-linked sites blocked by major Australian ISPs.

The group of entertainment companies has filed an application for injunction in the Federal Court that, if granted, will force Australia’s biggest telcos to take steps to block their customers from accessing 151 domains linked to 77 separate online services that allegedly engage in or facilitate copyright infringement.

That makes it the most far-reaching application for a site-blocking injunction so far, at least in terms of individual services allegedly linked to piracy. (In August, the Federal Court ordered a group of ISPs to block access to 58 sites and 200 related domains in response to separate applications from Foxtel and Roadshow.)

For the first time ever Vodafone, which only late last year confirmed its entry into the fixed-line broadband market, is a respondent in the current application, alongside Telstra, Optus, Vocus and TPG. The companies’ subsidiaries are also listed, meaning customers of ISPs such as Dodo, Primus, iiNet, Internode and Adam Internet will also be affected if the injunction is granted.

After the initial wave of applications, which saw rights holders and ISPs argue over the cost of implementing site blocks, telcos have not appeared in court. Computerworld understands Vodafone does not intend to appear in court.

The 2015 changes to the Australian Copyright Act that facilitate the site-blocking injunctions only affect fixed-line broadband services; however, both Telstra and Optus have confirmed to Computerworld that they also prevent mobile access to sites that the Federal Court has ordered blocked.

The court orders sought echo those granted in response to past applications. Telcos will have the choice of using DNS blocking, IP address blocking or re-routing, URL blocking or any alternative means (if agreement can be reached with the applicants). Telcos will receive $50 per domain name blocked to help defray their expenses.

As grounds for granting the injunction, the application lists a range of copyright material: The Lego Movie, Cinderella, Toy Story, Tron: Legacy, Kingsman: The Secret Service, Spy, Mother!, The Gambler, Transformers: Age of Extinction,  Spider-Man: Homecoming, The Shallows, This Is the End, Smurfs: The Lost Village, Despicable Me 3, Jurassic World, Straight Outta Compton, The Big Bang Theory: season 7, episode 24, Dunkirk, Shameless: season 4, episode 12, Dead Wrong: episode 1, May Fortune Smile On You: episode 1, Witness Insecurity: episode 1, House of Spirits: episode 1, Line Walker: The Prelude: episode 1, Provocateur: episode 1, Dagashi Kashi: episode 1, Sword Art Online: episode 1.

In June, a Foxtel application for injunction was granted, blocking 15 sites (and 28 domains).

Earlier this year, Roadshow was granted a site-blocking injunction that targeted a streaming service designed for Android-based set-top boxes.

Currently before the court is another application brought TVB, which also targets Android-based set-top boxes. The Hong Kong TV producer is seeking to block online services associated with the A1, BlueTV, EVPAD, FunTV, MoonBox, Unblock, and hTVS set-top boxes. Uncertainty around the copyright status of some material used in the company’s application means it is not clear whether an injunction will be granted.

INCOPRO Research commissioned by the Australian Screen Association and released in February claimed that site-blocking injunctions had helped slash traffic to targeted pirate services by more than half, compared to December 2016.

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Tags copyrightpiracyVillage Roadshowcopyright infringementsite blocking laws

More about Adam InternetAustraliaColumbia PicturesFoxtelInternodeMadman EntertainmentOptusParamount PicturesTwentieth Century FoxVillage RoadshowVodafoneWarner Bros

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