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Australia floats website blocks and ISP liability to stop copyright thieves

Big Content could get the right to order ISPs to stop traffic

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Australia's is pondering whether it needs the power to block websites that facilitate copyright infringement.

Crikey revealed a draft of a discussion paper on “Online Copyright Infringement” that offers three remedies.

The first, “Extended Authorisation Liability”, would strike down the legal principle that internet service providers (ISPs) are not responsible for their users' activities. That doctrine was established during the ”iiTrial” and has stuck in Big Content's craw ever since. The paper suggests that “the absence of a direct power to prevent a particular infringement would not, of itself, preclude a person from taking reasonable steps to prevent or avoid an infringing act.”

During the course of the “iiTrial”, ISP iiNet argued that even though it was in receipt of allegations about copyright infringement by its users, it had no power to intervene.

The second proposal, “Extended Injunctive Relief”, suggests the Copyright Act be changed to allow “rights holders to apply for a court order against ISPs to block access to an internet site outside Australia, the dominant purpose of which is to infringe copyright."

The proposal suggests rights holders indemnify ISPs when requesting such orders, lest they land the carrier in trouble.

The third proposal is for an “Extended Safe Harbour Scheme” that would expand liability beyond carriers to ensure that entities like Universities and even search engines can be held liable for users' activities.

The arrival of this discussion paper was expected in July, so the document is probably genuine. As a discussion paper, it is designed as the start of a conversation. Indeed, the document is peppered with questions stakeholders may wish to consider.

Vulture South expects the responses, and the resulting debate, to be rather vivid. Which will make for plenty of fun articles.®

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