Report on anti-piracy legislation delayed (again)

Inquiry delays report on website-blocking copyright enforcement bill

The parliamentary inquiry into a bill intended to crack down on online copyright infringement has again delayed its report on the proposed legislation.

The Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015 will allow rights holders such as movie studios to obtain court orders that will potentially force ISPs to block access to some piracy-linked sites.

The regime that will be introduced by the bill has been for the most part supported by representatives of rights holders, albeit with concerns over the threshold for obtaining a website-blocking court order.

However, it has met with a mixed response from the telco industry and has been criticised as introducing a de facto online censorship regime by Internet freedom advocates.

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights has also raised concerns about the proportionality of the legislation.

The Senate Standing Committees on Legal and Constitutional Affairs had originally been due to issue its report on the bill in May.

This afternoon the committee issued a second interim report, indicating it intends to issue its final report on 11 June. It is the third extension of the reporting date for the inquiry.

The inquiry has held only a single public hearing. The bill was referred to the Senate committee in late March.

The delay will narrow even further the gap between the release of the report on the controversial legislation and the bill being debated in parliament, with the government declaring it wants to pass the bill by the end of this month.

Attorney-General George Brandis said during a Senate Estimates hearing in May that the government hoped to have that legislation "through the parliament before parliament rises for the winter recess".

The House of Representatives and the Senate will sit from 15 June to 25 June.

The other major component of the government's anti-piracy push is an industry code for ISPs that will see alleged copyright infringers receive warning notices.

After a series of three notices over 12 months, downloaders' identities will potentially be the subject of an expedited discovery process that will make it possible for rights holders to take legal action against them.

Rights holders and telcos remain locked in negotiations over who will foot the bill for establishing and operating the code.

Earlier this month a report was released into the use by government agencies of Section 313(3) of the <i>Telecommunications Act 1997</i> to block access to online services.