Greens call for delay of anti-piracy 'Internet filter'

Senator Scott Ludlam pushes for response to ALRC copyright recommendations, IT pricing report

The Australian Greens have called for Labor to support delaying a Senate debate on the government's anti-piracy bill.

The House of Representatives on Tuesday passed the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015.

In the lower house both the Coalition and the Labor Party voted for the bill, which will force ISPs to block access to pirate websites.

The scheme will apply to overseas-based websites that engage in or facilitate copyright infringement.

A rights holder will have to apply for a Federal Court injunction to compel an ISP to block a particular "online location".

"The government has proceeded with a punitive site-blocking regime and completely ignored more practical options for copyright reform that have been on the table for years," the Greens' communications spokesperson, Senator Scott Ludlam, said in a statement.

The Greens will seek to delay passage of the bill until the government tables responses to the 2013 parliamentary inquiry into IT pricing, which looked at discrepancy between digital goods sold within Australia compared to other jurisdictions, and the Australian Law Reform Commission report on copyright and the digital economy.

During debate on the bill in the lower house, Labor was unable to amend the motion for a second reading of the bill in order to call on the government to by 17 September respond to the ALRC report and the report of the IT pricing inquiry.

The government has previously indicated it is interested in broader copyright reform.

Attorney-General George Brandis has said he is interested "root and branch" reform of Australian copyright law (though he also made clear that he did not support an ALRC proposal to add a 'fair use' clause to the relevant legislation).

Ludlam said the Greens would also push for a number of other amendments.

Those include changes to the copyright act to explicitly allow the circumvention of geo-blocking and changes to make it less likely that online services not intended to be used for piracy, such as VPNs, aren't blocked under the new regime.

The Greens senator issued a dissenting report from the parliamentary inquiry into the bill, saying it would not be effective in combating piracy.

Consumer advocacy group Choice has claimed that the bill is "an attempt to kill VPNs and entrench the 'Australia tax'".

Australian Greens amendments

Second reading amendments

-Amendment delaying Senate debate on the bill until the Government tables its response to Australian Law Reform Commission's 2013 report on copyright reform and the 2013 House of Reps IT price hike inquiry

Committee stage amendments

- Clear up the definition of sites targeted by the bill so that it cannot include Virtual Private Networks which have legitimate purposes
- Remove the ability of the bill to target sites "facilitating" copyright infringement, as this could target legitimate sites
- Change the definition of sites targeted by the bill to specify that the sites must be "flagrantly" infringing copyright. This is referred to elsewhere in the bill but currently not required to be considered.
- Allowing third parties (for example, consumer/public interest groups) to join the injunction applications as parties to help oppose websites being blocked
- Amend the Copyright Act to explicitly state that evading geoblocking does not constitute copyright infringement - the bill is currently unclear.
- Give any third-party the ability to seek a review of a website block.