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Australian Copyright Censorship Bill Could Block VPNs and Circumvention Information

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The steamroller that is the copyright enforcement machine continues to trundle along around the world, flattening obstacles such as fair use, privacy and freedom of expression in its path. One of its latest stops has been in Australia, where that country’s copyright site-blocking laws, first seriously mooted last year, were introduced into the Australian Federal Parliament last month. A public comment period on the legislation, the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015, closed two weeks ago, and EFF was amongst 49 experts, organizations and government departments who submitted comments.

In our submission we explained that:

censoring content from the Internet through blocking or filtering is never the best approach to take in managing illegal behavior online, and that it is always much better to address such behavior at its source. Any blocking or filtering of content runs the risk of being over-extensive or under-extensive (frequently both at once), and more fundamentally, runs against the Internet's essential value as an open platform for free expression.

The proposed law targets Internet services (including, but not limited to websites) hosted overseas, the primary purpose of which is to infringe copyright or to facilitate an infringement. Although it would require a court to approve the blocks—which is one of the minimum requirements of the Manila Principles on Intermediary Liability—it includes a number of other elements that fall short, both in terms of the process for obtaining a blocking order, as well as the substantive grounds on which blocks can be approved.

Starting with the process, in most cases there will be nobody to argue against an order to block a foreign site. This is because foreign hosts have no absolute right to be heard when their site is slated for blocking—and even if the court does allow them to be heard, the costs of securing representation will be prohibitive for all but a minority of overseas websites and services. As such, a court is almost certain to hear one side of the story, which in turn is likely to lead to sites being wrongly blocked.

As to the substantive grounds on which blocking can be sought, the proposed law is very vague. It allows not only sites that infringe copyright to be blocked, but also those that “facilitate the infringement of copyright”—or have the “primary purpose” of doing so. EFF was amongst several parties to the consultation—including Australia’s leading consumer organization Choice, as well as Google, and even Australia’s competition regulator the ACCC, who noted the danger that this would pose for operators of Virtual Private Network (VPN) services, some of whom specifically market their services for their ability to access blocked or geoblocked content.

Another example of the Bill’s dangerously vague scope are the criteria that a court is supposed to have regard to when determining whether to block a site. These include whether the owner or operator of the online location “demonstrates a disregard for copyright generally” (which seems to include those who conscientiously object to copyright, such as Leo Tolstoy and Woody Guthrie), whether the site makes available indexes of information that could facilitate copyright infringement (which might include sites like doom9.net that provide indexes of information on ripping DVDs), and whether any other country has made a copyright blocking order against the site (even if those countries have a much weaker legal standard for making blocking orders than Australia does).

Other voices against the Bill

As noted above, numerous other organizations joined EFF in its criticism of this bill for its restriction of access to knowledge and its chilling effect on speech. The Queensland University of Technology Intellectual property law and innovation research group, considered the bill insufficient to safeguard the public interest of access to legitimate information, saying:

If we have learnt anything from the last two decades of the ‘copyright wars’, it is that the best way to tackle copyright infringement is by satisfying the public’s demand for content in accessible, convenient, and affordable channels. Until the Australian market is better served by foreign rightsholders, increasing the severity of copyright law is only likely to be counterproductive.


Source: https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2015/04/australian-copyright-censorship-bill-could-block-vpns-and-circumvention

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Just lame media company's (specifically news media company's) trying to force trying to force their competition out by lobbying to get laws passed to block sites. Little to the idiots know it will only turn the public even more against their BS and turn their channels off.

F-The big corp media companies! I haven't had a TV in home in what will be this coming August, 27 years. I don't care to watch their lame product online either in any fashion.

They will still keep losing readers and viewers of their BS. That future is written in stone!

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