Australia Blocks Access To Torrent Websites

Torrent websites blocked in Australia
The Piratebay will be blocked in Australia

Torrent websites blocked for those in Australia, goodbye Piratebay.

Today the Federal Government in Australia has ruled to force ISP’s into blocking torrent sites like ISOHunt and The Piratebay. It was part of a landmark ruling and is a victory for copyright holders. Within 15 days, Australian internet users, including those of TPG, Telstra, Optus and iiNet, will be directed to a landing page warning them about the government block, while putting forward the message that the site “infringes or facilitates the infringement of copyright”.

The method of which will be used to block the sites is upto the individual ISP but a proposal by TPG to use DNS blocking could be the method favoured by all. They could also choose to IP block or URL block, which would be the most effective method but possibly be the most expensive.

The ISP’s had a small victory regarding the financial aspect though, as copyright holders will have to pay $50 for each domain blocked and also cover the legal fees, incurred from the court case.

News that Piratebay will be blocked was quickly shared amongst social media.

Many internet users in Australia quickly shared the news through social media immediately after the ruling and where quick to criticise the case. Many people also pointed out that they will just change DNS settings or use a VPN to circumnavigate the blocks. As VPN’s have become quite popular amongst consumers of digital media and streaming services, like Netflix, people use them to dodge geo-blocking and access overseas content libraries. This method interestingly has been proved to be legal, as avoiding geo-blocked content to access paid for and licenced media, is not illegal in Australia.

Graham Burke, the Co-chief executive of Village roadshow was quick to point out;

“The experience overseas is not many people use VPNs because they cost money as well,”

“[Torrent users would] still face the issue of dealing with viruses, scams and a pretty terrible, terrible neighbourhood so I think that should factor, but I think also when we explain to people that it’s not a victimless crime, that other people lose their jobs, I think that will have an impact.”

“So I don’t see that as significant. I think we can address that.”

There is also room for copyright holders to add domains, who are breaching copyright to be added in the future, they will be required to file an affidavit and unless the courts object, ISP’s will be forced to add these newly detailed sites to the ban list.

Not much has been said about net neutrality though.

Interestingly there hasn’t been much outcry over the threat to net neutrality with the new ruling. Unlike the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) which was a proposed bill in the US. It was aimed to stop users intentionally or unintentionally accessing copyrighted content on the web and DNS blocking was the proposed method to be used. While DNS blocking is said to break the fundamental architecture of the internet.

Free speech and due access are some of the key concerns which where bought forward during SOPA and was criticised by many, some even stating politicians involved are pressured by lobbyists and donors. Google’s Eric Schmidt even was even quoted as saying;

“I would be very, very careful if I were a government about arbitrarily [implementing] simple solutions to complex problems” 

Plus DNS blocking has its own concerns, such as the effectiveness, as those who want to access this content will, it breaks vital internet technology, and could even do damage to internet security.

The new bans though are still a win for the copyright holders and it’s possible the new warning pages will educate people about the effect online piracy has on its right holders but how ISP’s choose to implement the blocks will be interesting to know and how users in Australia decide to consume online media within the 15 days.

Whether or not a drop in online downloads occurs is yet to be seen. Plus will people now decide to fork out money for subscription services or purchase VPN’s, Australian internet users will now have to decide.

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