Australian Censorship Hits a Snag

Michael Policy

Back in June, we here at LiquidVPN brought you news that Australia passed a broad censorship bill similar to that of New Zealand. The new bill put it on track to compete with countries like China and North Korea for most suppressive censorship laws. The Copyright Infringement Amendments Act of 2015 gave Australia the title of having the most censored internet in the western world.

The Australian censorship bill that was massively unpopular with the public passed the parliament with a near landslide bipartisan vote. The new law gives copyright holders the power to seek a court order to force an internet service provider (ISP) to block a website whose ‘primary purpose’ is to facilitate copyright infringement. Like many other bills relating to internet censorship, this one was loosely worded.

No One Wants to Pay for Australian Censorship

In February of this year ISPs submitted a 3-strikes policy for copyright violators. It proposed that a person downloading content protected by copyrights will be delivered warnings with increasing severity. On the third deliverance of such notice the copyright holder can then take legal action and sue the violator.

Since the proposal, constant bickering between the ISPs and rightsholders have not resulted in a consensus about picking up the tab. Rightsholders believe that since it is the ISPs’ customers infringing that they should be the ones responsible.

On the other hand, ISPs believe that if the copyrights holders want the notices sent out, and if the notices do in fact drive up sales for them then they should be the ones to pay.

The estimated costs for the notices are quite high. In New Zealand the ISPs charge rightsholders $25 per notice sent out. Multiply that times the estimated 200,000 notices expected to be sent out in Australia during the first year and you find that the cost of the notices are around $5 million.  That’s a lot of money spent on notices that promise no direct return on investment. It’s easy to see why neither wants to foot the bill.

The program to bolster Australian censorship was originally slated to start next week, September 1st.

If New Zealand’s similar law is anything to go off of, Australians could see this new strategy lightly used. That is if they are able to ever move past the argument over who’s paying. The cost incurred by sending the notices has deterred big Hollywood from taking part in the program at all. For the most part, it is just the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (RIANZ) not the film industry, that has sent the notices. And even those notices were for international artists. Furthermore, the notices are few and far between as they target consistent violators that they are more likely to be able to recoup money from.

Way to Go, Australian Censorship Made the List!

The actions of Australia over the past several years has given Reporters Without Borders continual reason to drop Australia’s ranking on their annual Press Freedom Index. Australia has also been on their ‘countries under surveillance’ list for Enemies of the Internet since 2010.

This doesn’t seem to deter Australia from moving forward in its censoring or journalism suppression.

It is important to note that Australia finds itself in bad company on the ‘countries under surveillance.’ Other list-mates include Eritrea, Malaysia, Russia, South Korea, Turkey, and Thailand.

Dallas Buyers Club and the Australian Court

Dallas Buyers Club LLC is one company that is taking no prisoners when it comes to its copyright. Since its release, the studio has requested, and gotten, thousands of IP addresses of violators. Subsequently, they have also sued hundreds of those IP address owners and requested disposition and interrogation of the suspected infringers.

Many of the lawsuits have been settled out of court. Dallas Buyers Club LLC has reportedly even gone as far as to investigate users via Google Maps, Facebook, and reviewing their browsing history.

DBC also requested information on each users income.

Recently, the Australian court put a damper on DBC’s lawsuit spree. The approval of the letter to be sent to violators is one of the final requirements needed before the court will order the release of the private information of over 4,000 IP address owners. However, a recent ruling said that the letters DBC planned on sending was not allowed.

The court pointed to two of the four points of damages that DBC was attempting to collect on. The cost of legally purchasing the film and the cost to DBC for obtaining the users information was deemed appropriate. However, damages relating to the users download history and the users upload activity of the film was not.

The only way forward for Dallas Buyers Club at this point is to pay AU$600,000 bond to receive the alleged infringers’ information.

Fighting the Wrong Battle?

Censorship, especially Australian censorship, is getting increasingly heated. The battle over piracy is being waged all over the world. Although efforts against piracy seem to have some effect; the biggest irony is that several studies have shown that those who download the most also spend the most. In some studies ‘pirates’ are 10 times more likely to also buy content.

feature image courtesy of wikimedia commons

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