Australian Government Asked to Repeal Site-Blocking Laws by Copyright Law Professor

  • Australia may soon allow copyright holders to directly request from search engines to block infringing websites.
  • A law professor from the Queensland University of Technology has requested the Australian government to repeal such site-blocking laws.
  • The professor made his criticisms known to the Senate Standing Committee on Environment and Communications last week.

Australia is set to implement site-blocking laws that will give copyright holders the power to directly order search engines to take down websites with infringing content under Section 115a of Australia’s Copyright Act. Matthew Rimmer who is a professor of Intellectual Property and Innovation Law at the Faculty of Law, at the Queensland University of Technology is against the move.

Professor Rimmer stated that while the move can help copyright holders in Australia to directly apply for injunctions, the law is not well designed. It not only blocks the links to infringing content but also their appearance in search engines. The only way to blacklist such URLs is by removing entire domain names from search engines.

The professor submitted his statement to the Senate Standing Committee on Environment and Communications last week and criticized not only the site blocking law but also the planned expansions. He stated that similar laws were proposed in the US and rejected. He stated: “Given the United States Congress rejected the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) site-blocking legislation; the Australian Parliament should similarly reject the crude policy option of site-blocking. Australia does need a bill of rights to better protect the freedoms of Australian citizens. This is particularly important in the context of regulation of the Internet, search engines, and cloud computing.

He has called out the measures for protecting freedom of expression and freedom of speech as inadequate, and the policy is 'crude' in his opinion. With the law being open to abuse by copyright holders, it remains to be seen if the professor’s views will have any impact on the site-blocking law in Australia. While the law is designed to protect copyright holders, it also needs a number of changes to protect users and prevent abuse.

The new law has been backed by a number of entertainment industry members as well as Australia’s own Village Roadshow. Google was criticized by Village Roadshow for not willing to adopt the changes to Australian copyright laws. Google has gone on record and said that there are many problems with a direct blocking injunction and the tech giant wants to continue having freedom over blocking.

Russia has also sanctioned a similar law that allows websites to be blocked with the help of ISPs. Apple CEO Tim Cook revealed in an interview that over time government intervention and control is likely to go into effect on the internet and there may be no avoiding it.

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