Coalition, Labor vote for website-blocking bill

Copyright enforcement bill passed by House of Reps

The government’s scheme to force ISPs to block websites linked to online piracy has come a step closer to fruition.

Tonight the Labor and Coalition combined to pass the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015 in the House of Representatives.

The bill will allow rights holders to apply for Federal Court injunctions against websites that infringe or facilitate infringement of their copyright.

If a court order is granted, an ISP will be compelled to take "reasonable steps" to stop its customers accessing the named "online location".

The scheme will only apply to overseas-based websites.

The government accepted the recommendations of the parliamentary inquiry into the bill.

Those recommendations included modifying language relating to the criteria that a judge will consider before granting a site-blocking court order and changes to the explanatory memorandum.

The proposed scheme has been met with opposition from consumer advocacy groups.

Labor MPs voted for the bill, though they attempted to pass an amendment stating:

while not declining to give the bill a second reading, the House calls on the Government to fully respond by 17 September 2015 to:
(1) the recommendations of the Australian Law Reform Commission’s report on copyright in the digital economy; and
(2) the recommendations of the House Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications’ Inquiry into IT Pricing directed at encouraging legitimate content downloads.

The amendment was voted down.

Attorney-General George Brandis has indicated that the government is interested in conducting "root and branch" reform of copyright law.

The website-blocking bill now heads to the Senate. The bill is scheduled to be introduced in the upper house on Thursday.

The Greens have opposed the bill.

In a dissenting report from the Senate inquiry, the party’s communications spokesperson, Senator Scott Ludlam, said that the site-blocking regime was a form of censorship and would be ineffective at preventing piracy.