In a society entertained by movies, music and TV shows, chances are that you know someone who has watched something online for free or perhaps downloaded music without paying for it. There have been some recent changes that will affect the way online piracy has proliferated on the internet. Below, we set out the three key things you should be aware of as a consumer.

1. Website Blocking

February of this year saw the first application of the new website blocking provisions in s 115 of the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) by Village Roadshow and seven other multimedia companies. They have initiated an action to block access to popular video sharing sites including SolarMovie, Torrentz and The Pirate Bay. More recently in April, some of Australia’s biggest music companies have joined to file an application under the same provision to block access to popular torrent site KickassTorrents.

The new provision in question gives the Federal Court the power to order an injunction requiring Internet Service Providers to block websites that facilitate infringement of copyright. It was specifically enacted to tackle online piracy on a massive scale. At the moment, however, Village Roadshow’s case has been waylaid by cost disputes – and it is unlikely the outcome of the case will come soon.

2. You’re Unlikely to Be Targeted – Yet

The Government’s development of a Copyright Notice Scheme also dubbed the “three strikes code”, that would allow copyright holders to send notices to all alleged pirates ordering them to cease illicit downloads appears to have been stalled. The high costs of the scheme and financial constraints placed on ISPs have caused copyright holders to hit pause on a national code – for now.

As an individual, it is unlikely that copyright holders will come after you directly. The outcome of the Dallas Buyers Club last year saw copyright holders’ attempt to gain access to the names and addresses of alleged pirates from ISPs fail. However, the case was important in that the Court did deliver its preliminary discovery decision in favour of rights holders – it was only the additional restrictions and the fact that the cost of communicating with alleged infringers would outweigh the penalty ordered that ultimately stopped Dallas Buyers Club from proceeding. It is important to note that a penalty on copyright infringers is still a possibility in the future.

3. Piracy is Illegal

The commonality of online piracy makes it easy to forget that it is, essentially, illegal under the law. Copyright is inherent and automatic in Australia, and by knowing distributing or possessing copyrighted material without the consent of the copyright holder will violate copyright law.

There are now various sites that allow you to easily access new movies and music online legally with little cost, e.g. Netflix and Spotify. While it is still possible to download pirated material online, the Government, as well as copyright holders, have made it clear they are determined to stop online piracy. While accessing pirated materials is unlikely ever to become impossible, it could soon become much more challenging. If you have any questions about copyright, get in touch with our IP lawyers.

Lachlan McKnight

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