Australian music industry wants ISPs to block ‘stream ripping’ sites

Music labels launch new legal action

Major music labels are backing court action that, if successful, will force major Australian Internet service providers to block their customers from accessing so-called ‘stream ripping’ services.

The Federal Court action is being coordinated by Music Rights Australia, with the support of the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA) as well as Sony Music Entertainment Australia Pty Ltd, Universal Music Australia Pty Limited and Warner Music Australia Pty Limited.

Stream-ripping sites allow users to record and save the audio streamed from a service such as Spotify or YouTube. The services have not previously been the subject of legal action in Australia. (In November, Sony Music emerged victorious from a fight against stream-ripping service in a German court, with the service being declared illegal.)

Last year Australia’s anti-piracy scheme was significantly strengthened. The range of sites that can be targeted was expanded to include services that have the “primary effect” of facilitating or engaging in copyright infringement. Previously to be blocked a site needed to have as its “primary purpose” facilitating or engaging in online piracy.

The government said the intention of the changes was to capture a range of additional categories of service linked to online copyright infringement, such as ‘cyber lockers’.

The music industry application for injunction has been brought under Section 115a of the Copyright Act. Entertainment companies have previously used Section 115a to tackle a range of online services, including sites offering video streaming, file downloads, indexes of pirated material, support for illicit set-top box streaming, and unauthorised subtitle downloads.

Music Rights Australia in 2016 spearheaded an effort by labels and industry organisations to have telcos block access to BitTorrent site Kickass Torrents. A site-blocking injunction was granted by the court in 2017. That application was one of the first to take advantage of the anti-piracy law.

If granted, the new injunction will affect customers of Optus, Telstra, TPG (including AAPT, iiNet and Internode) and Vodafone. Foxtel is also listed as a respondent — the pay TV provider, which has a broadband arm, was also targeted by the Kickass Torrents action.

(A notable absence from the list of respondents is Vocus, which owns Dodo and iPrimus — it has previously been one of the telcos listed in site-blocking actions brought by the movie industry.)

“These no fault injunctions are used to block the worst of the illegal sites which undermine the local and international music industry,” a Music Rights Australia spokesperson told Computerworld.

“We use this effective and efficient no fault remedy to block the illegal sites which undermine the many licensed online services which give music fans the music they love where, when and how they want to hear it,” the spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

The music industry action is not the only site-blocking application currently before the courts: A group of companies led by Village Roadshow and including major film studios as well as Australian distributor Madman is seeking to have ISPs block 79 online locations (spread across 99 domains) that allegedly offer illicit streaming or downloads of copyright material, or link to other locations that provide streaming or download services.