Monday, 09 May 2016 20:22

IA continues to beat the drum on site-blocking laws

IA continues to beat the drum on site-blocking laws Image courtesy of Stuart Miles,

Internet Australia has again raised concerns about the costs associated with site-blocking laws designed to deal with unlawful downloading of video and audio content via overseas websites.

While reiterating that IA does not condone unlawful downloading – and repeating his criticism that that site-blocking law was brought in last year at the “behest” of the overseas rights holders after a lobbying campaign - CEO Laurie Patton said the peak body representing Internet users drew the line at “unworkable solutions” like site-blocking .

According to Patton, site-blocking interferes with the “open and trusted” essential nature of the Internet and the measures cause operational issues that can lead to interruptions in service, like the ASIC case a few years ago “where they inadvertently put 250,000+ innocent sites offline for several days".

“It is time to accept the pointlessness of current strategies to deal with unlawful downloading of video and audio content. We join Telstra and other ISP’s in expressing concerns about the costs associated with site-blocking law designed to deal with unlawful downloading of video and audio content via overseas websites.”

Patton repeated previous concerns that IA feared the costs of site-blocking compliance will be passed on to consumers in the form of increased Internet access fees, and again claimed that site-blocking has not been proven to work in other countries.

“International experience has found that the effectiveness of site-blocking is more perceived than real and is simply not the solution, it‘s really just a PR exercise. Blocking or closing down offending websites for them only to pop up on a different address or server is akin to playing ‘whack-a-mole’.

“The fact is any user with a modicum of technical knowledge will find a way to access what they want, lawfully or unlawfully. So we are going to inconvenience ISP’s and see everyone’s Internet access fees increase as a consequence of the costs of implementing site-blocking, all for a bit of PR?”, Patton questions.

“Even our prime minister, Mr Turnbull, has argued that rights holders’ most powerful tool to combat online copyright infringement is making content accessible, timely, and affordable to consumers.

“The site-blocking law was brought in last year at the behest of the overseas rights holders, after a concerted lobbying campaign. Yet, they were never asked to substantiate their claims of significant financial losses.”

Internet Australia has also questioned the Productivity Commission’s call for an end to ‘geoblocking’ - the process Patton says where overseas content owners have historically imposed higher charges for DVD’s, and now online content, compared with the United States where the bulk of the content originates.

“Australians have been price-gouged for decades through geoblocking. Countless Australians have come back from the United States with much cheaper DVD’s only to find that they wouldn’t work”.

And, while objecting to the site-blocking law IA has repeated its support for the rights of content producers.

“Internet Australia is committed to effective protection of intellectual property, as an important incentive to innovate and create. However, we maintain it is time to accept the pointlessness of current strategies to deal with unlawful downloading of video and audio content. And, just as airlines are not held responsible for the ‘knock-off’ DVD’s their passengers bring home from their holidays, we don’t believe that making ISP’s liable by using the Internet to block content is appropriate or fair,” Patton concludes.

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham - retired in 2020. He is a veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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