The government may soon be able to force search engines to block sites that facilitate online piracy in a bid to further protect content creators and distributors.
Introduced to parliament on Thursday, the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2018 would significantly broaden Australia’s current site-blocking laws.
“An injunction against an online search engine provider is a reasonable, necessary and proportionate response to the need to protect the rights of creators and their licensees from infringing material being distributed to, or accessed by, persons in Australia,” the government states in its explanatory memorandum of the bill.
The proposed amendment extends the “existing, successful website blocking scheme introduced by the government in 2015,” said Minister for Communications and the Arts Mitch Fifield.
The 2015 bill allowed intellectual property rights holders to launch cases with the Federal Court to force ISPs to take reasonable steps to block infringing sites.
“The Government is providing enormous support to creative industries,” said Fifield.
“We are always looking at what more we can do, and we want copyright owners to have the right tools at their disposal to fight online piracy.”
Free TV Australia CEO Bridget Fair welcomed the proposed measures.
“The legislation is a significant step in holding Google to account for its role in facilitating online piracy.
“We know that site blocking can more than halve the usage of online pirate sites. It works.
"This legislation will put a stop to the high-tech game of whack-a-mole copyright owners have been forced to play, by allowing content creators to quickly seek blocks on proxy and mirror sites and a wider range of overseas websites and file-sharing services."
The proposed amendment will give copyright owners the ability to apply for injunctions requiring a search engine to “demote or remove search results for infringing sites”.
It will also aim to bring a broader range of “overseas infringing online locations” within the scope of the scheme and give the Federal Court the power to quickly block proxy and mirror pirate sites.