Australia's Music Biz Welcomes New Anti-Piracy Legislation

Australia’s music industry has welcomed new legislation which has been described as an “effective tool” in the fight against online piracy.

Australia’s Senate on Monday passed the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015, a piece of legislation that would allow copyright owners to seek a court injunction to force ISPs to block overseas-hosted copyright-infringing Websites such as the Pirate Bay and Kickass Torrents.

The legislation passed the Senate by 37 votes to 13, and is now set to be signed into law by the Governor-General. It’s simply a matter of time before the first pirate sites are blocked for Australian consumers.

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In a statement issued to Billboard, Vanessa Hutley, GM of Music Rights Australia, says the music industry is buoyed by the development. The lobby group (formerly known as MIPI) acts on behalf of 125 record companies through their association ARIA, and more than 2,000 songwriters and music publishers through its links with mechanical rights society AMCOS.
 
“We thank the government and the opposition for supporting this important legislation and through it showing their support of the creative industries which are such an important part of Australia’s cultural and economic life.”
 
She adds, “Section 115A gives the creative community an effective tool to disrupt illegal offshore sites which make millions of dollars from advertising but give nothing back to the artists whose work they systematically exploit on a massive scale. Australian consumers have over 30 licensed online music sites to choose from across a range of platforms and at  price points, including free on advertising supported services, yet these illegal sites have continued to flourish and make money for their operators because there was nothing the copyright owners could do locally to stop them. Until now.”

APRA AMCOS CEO Brett Cottle says the bill “will give to creative industries a means to fight back, it will assist in changing the behavior of Australian consumers and, most importantly, it will send a powerful, practical and symbolic message to the artists and creators of Australia."

Cottle notes, “Australia's creative industries have been waiting for a very long time for Parliament to provide an expression of support and respect for their work and their place in the life of the nation."

Virtual Private Networks (VPN) will not be the target of the law, according to an explanatory memorandum. Though protections for VPNs are not addressed in the amendment.

The government announced last year its intention to introduce laws that will enable a court to order the blocking of Websites abroad that were found to be “primarily for the purpose of facilitating online copyright infringement.”

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It's no secret that Australia has had a piracy problem and each of its content industries has felt the sting. The country has the dubious honor of leading the world in illegal downloads of Game of Thrones, the world’s most pirated show. Australia accounted for 11.6% of the global total of downloads of the HBO hit, according to a sample studied by file-sharing monitor TorrentFreak earlier in 2014.

The country’s recorded music market took a black eye in 2014, with the overall market shrinking by 9.2% to A$317.7 million ($253 million). The "illegal consumption of music is a constant challenge to the music business which continues to affect its prospects of growth," noted ARIA in January on the announcement of its trade figures. "2014 proved to be a formative year for the industry as the Federal Government announced that it will take steps to address the serious issue of online copyright infringement."