Abney Technology News: Warning to public over web piracy

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Fans who illegally download TV shows such as Game of Thrones are under threat, with the Abbott Government flagging tough new rules to crack down on online piracy.

Attorney-General George Brandis said yesterday that hundreds of thousands of Australians who illegally downloaded content were thieves and he was considering ways to make internet service providers block users of pirate websites.

Senator Brandis’ speech to the Australian Digital Alliance comes after the Law Reform Commission recommended a “fair use” provision for copyrighted works, a move opposed by movie studies and other rights holders.

The commission claims fair use would legitimise consumer activity currently against the law, such as copying a legally acquired movie to a personal device and was not an argument for legalising piracy.

Senator Brandis said he was yet to be persuaded about fair use provisions but pledged to revamp copyright law so that it was shorter and simpler, and would be technology-neutral with “no more amusing references to videotapes”.

He cited how the High Court’s ruling in 2012 against movie companies who had tried to force WA-based internet service provider iiNet to stop its users from downloading copyrighted material changed the understanding of the law.

He said he was sympathetic to those against the “scourge of online piracy” and was considering a “legal incentive” for internet service providers to co-operate with copyright holders.

Although complex, one option would be to make ISPs liable for issuing graduated warnings to consumers using websites to break the law. Another idea was allowing third parties to seek an injunction against ISPs, ordering them to take down websites hosting infringing material.

Greens’ communications spokesman Scott Ludlam said Senator Brandis was siding with Hollywood rather than ordinary Australian users.

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