Australian ISPs to block KickassTorrents

Third successful site-blocking application

TPG, Telstra, Optus and Foxtel as well as the companies’ subsidiaries, such as iiNet and Internode, will be obliged to block their customers from accessing BitTorrent site Kickass Torrents under a Federal Court injunction handed down today.

The site-blocking injunction is the third successful application lodged by copyright holders under anti-piracy legislation passed in 2015.

ARIA members Universal Music Australia, Warner Music Australia, Sony Music Entertainment Australia and J Albert & Son, along with APRA AMCOS, last year brought the application for injunction. The application has been coordinated with the aid of Music Rights Australia.

The push for an injunction continued despite the US government seizing domain names linked Kickass Torrents and the site’s alleged operator, Artem Vaulin, being arrested in Poland and facing possible extradition to the US. Individuals allegedly linked to the site last year resurrected a version of it.

The first two applications for injunction under the site-blocking legislation were lodged by Village Roadshow and Foxtel and heard jointly in 2016. In December, a Federal Court judge granted the applications, compelling Telstra, TPG and Optus and M2 (now owned by Vocus) to block access to a number of sites linked to online copyright infringement.

The Roadshow application targeted streaming site Solar Movie; Foxtel targeted to block The Pirate Bay, Torrentz, TorrentHound and IsoHunt.

Although ISPs have not in principle opposed the site blocks, Foxtel, Roadshow and the ISPs clashed over a range of issues, including who should fit the bill for implementing the blocks (with the court ruling that the rights holders would pay a sum for each site blocked).

A perhaps more significant dispute was over how to deal with mirror and proxy sites that provided access to the content of a pirate sites. Foxtel and Roadshow sought a form of ‘rolling injunction’ which would allow them to notify ISPs of a new proxy site; the ISPs would then have to add it to the list of blocked domains, IPs or URLs.

ISPs pushed for court oversight — and were successful. In those applications, Justice Nicholas ruled that if Roadshow and Foxtel wanted to block a proxy or mirror they would have to submit an affidavit and a proposed amendment to the block list to the court. The ISPs would have an opportunity to object to the addition and if so or if the court sees fit for some other reason the matter would be relisted for further directions.

The injunction handed down today follows a similar template to the orders in the other applications. The telcos will have 15 days to disable access to Kickass Torrents-linked domains, using DNS blocking or any other means agreed to with the applicants.

Traffic from within ISPs’ networks to the site must be redirected to a web page either established by the ISP or by the applicants. That page will explain that access to the site has been blocked by a Federal Court order.

The applicants will pay the telcos $50 per domain blocked, as well as the telcos’ fees incurred for preparing court submissions on their compliance costs.

Finally, if the applicants wish to add an additional Kickass Torrents-linked domain to the block list, it will involve lodging an affidavit and proposed short minutes of order with the court.

In the wake of its first application for injunction, Roadshow in February launched legal action seeking to block another 41 websites. The ISPs subject to the proposed injunction — TPG, Telstra, Optus and Vocus — are not expected to enter an appearance.

As a result, Roadshow expects the hearing of the application to be significantly shorter, with the entertainment company explicitly modelling its proposed court orders on those handed down after its first application.