Government drops public interest safeguards from website blocking

Wednesday 28 November 2018
For immediate release
Canberra, Australia

The Australian Digital Alliance is disappointed that the government has proceeded with its plans to remove important public interest safeguards from Australia's website blocking scheme.

The Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Act 2018, passed today in the Senate, aims to make it easier for rights holders to obtain an injunction to block foreign based piracy websites. However, to allow this, the government has removed important public interest protections from the legislation, dangerously lowering the bar set by the scheme, and putting legitimate sites and the legitimate activities of the public at risk.

Jessica Coates, Executive Director of the ADA, said that the resulting legislation is worryingly broad and vague.

“Its new 'primary effect' test significantly broadens its scope far beyond the piracy sites that were originally envisioned, and runs the risk of enabling the blocking of a large range of innocent and commonly used websites, such as meme-generators, auto-translation services and even VPNs, “ Ms Coates said. “This is a significant departure from the stated intent of the scheme when it passed in 2015, which was to capture only ‘the worst of the worst’ websites.”

“The evidence from the government review earlier this year was that the existing scheme was working. There seems no justification to have rushed through such significant changes without proper consideration and consultation.”

The Act also raises the costs of the scheme, by extending it unnecessarily to search engines, and reduces judicial oversight.

Website blocking is a drastic remedy and a blunt tool which has significant implications for free speech, innovation and the basic functioning of Australia’s internet. As such, it is highly concerning that significant amendments to the scheme have been rushed through without justification as to the need or the support of the majority of stakeholders.

About the Australian Digital Alliance
Founded in 1998, the Australian Digital Alliance advocates for the public interest in copyright reform, and a balanced and flexible copyright system that benefits creators, users and innovators. Our members are schools, universities, libraries, galleries, museums, technology companies and organisations assisting the blind and vision impaired.

Interviews and media contact
Ms Coates is available for interview by request. All media inquiries related to this media release should be directed to:

Ms Jessica Coates
Executive Officer
Australian Digital Alliance

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