In major victories for Hollywood and the local film industries, Australian federal courts have ordered the country’s major telecoms and Internet providers to block access to 59 websites that carry pirated film and TV content. The studios and distributors have been fighting legal battles Down Under for several years.
The decisions came in two separate rulings Friday. In a case brought by Village Roadshow, the judge ordered telcos including Telstra, Optus and TPG to block 42 piracy sites. In a case brought by Foxtel, a second judge ordered the blocking of another 17 sites. The Internet service providers have 15 days to block the 59 sites and 127 domains.
In the Village Roadshow case, the judge said that copyright violations were “flagrant and reflect a blatant disregard for copyright owners.” Some, he said, even offered tutorials on “how to frustrate any legal action.”
Sites to be blocked include PrimeWire, MegaShare, EZTV, Limetorrents, Project Free TV, Watch Series, KissCartoon, PutLocker, GoMovies, EYNY and Kinogo. Following an earlier order, that brings the total number of sites blocked to 65, with a total of 340 domains.
Australia is ranked as one of the countries that most access pirated versions of “Game of Thrones.” The Village Roadshow case alleged piracy of 13 movies and TV series including “The Lego Movie,” “Kingsman: The Secret Service” and “The Big Bang Theory.”
“This is a historic moment for Australia to have what is effectively 95% of the criminal trade blocked,” said Graeme Burke, co-head of Village Roadshow and chairman of lobby group Creative Content Australia. “The thieves who run pirate sites contribute nothing to Australia — they employ no one and pay no taxes here. Of the enormous profits they earn, not one cent goes back to the original creators of the content.”
Distributors and other rights holders have for years attempted to use legal measures in Australia to penalize piracy site operators, ISPs and individual users. But they were often frustrated by the courts, which imposed numerous difficulties, such as requiring court approval of the wording of warning letters, on the ability to sue consumers of pirated content.
Australian ISPs also previously argued that the film and TV industries had created the problem of piracy by not making content available quickly or cheaply online. That situation has changed dramatically with the success of Netflix, which is believed to have over 2 million subscriptions in Australia, and other local streaming services such as Stan.
In 2015, federal law was changed to allow rights owners to seek site blocking. Where approved, the blocks are to be paid for by the rights owners, at approximately $40 (A$50) a time.