Australia Considers New Copyright Law That Could Be Interpreted To Ban VPNs
from the very-probably-nixed dept
Some months back, our own Glyn Moody wrote about the music industry in Australia and its attempt to basically broadly multiply copyright protections, routing around the public’s representatives in government to get ISPs to act as judge, jury and executioner. Then, because Glyn Moody is a witch who turned my sister into a newt, he wondered aloud whether VPNs would be the next target in the copyright industry’s crosshairs.
If it is passed, copyright owners would be able to apply for a federal court order requiring internet service providers to block overseas sites whose primary purpose is infringing copyright or facilitating the infringement of copyright. While the bill is designed to target BitTorrent sites, such as the Pirate Bay, there are concerns other online services such as VPNs and digital storage lockers could fall victim.
The campaigns manager for Choice, Erin Turner, says at least 684,000 Australian households currently employ VPNs to bypass geoblocks and access overseas content at globally competitive prices.
No need to go half way here: if the bill is written and passed in its current vague iteration, VPNs and storage lockers absolutely will be under attack. Entertainment companies both foreign and domestic have been complaining for years about Australians using VPNs to route around geo-restrictions and get overseas content and it would be silly to pretend like infringers don’t use VPNs to conceal themselves. All that said, there are a ton of legitimate reasons to use a VPN or storage locker. That’s why crafting industry-specific legislation like this is so tricky, particularly when the target of the law is a widely used product of platform. There are simply going to be consequences that the public would consider unintended and that I consider specifically intended in the vagueness of the law. Copyright protection advocates always want more, never less, and they aren’t exactly known for behaving reservedly when they feel they have tools at their disposal.
The enemy here is ambiguity.
Copyright expert Kimberlee Weatherall says it is difficult to predict if the bill will be used by copyright holders to argue for an injunction against a VPN service because it lacks clarity regarding services and sites whose primary purpose is not copyright infringement, although may be being used for that purpose.
Which means that the law cannot be allowed to pass as it is currently written. Legislation doesn’t necessarily have to be specifically proscriptive, but a lack of clarity on a technology service so common and so tangential to the chief target of the bill means the bill sucks. Hell, it’s not like I’m making this concern up, even. Already content providers are arguing for tightened screws on Aussie VPNs.
Cordell Jigsaw Zapruder managing director Nick Murray told Mumbrella the current arrangements are only benefitting international players like Netflix because under the current production deals content is sold by territories.
Asked if it should be illegal for Australians to access overseas platforms using a VPN he said: “It should be. It should absolutely be regulated somehow to make it so people in Australia shouldn’t use VPNs.”Murray defended the arrangement of selling content by territory saying “that’s how we get our money” adding: “The people people who say we should get rid of the geo-blocker, it’s just bizarre, as that is how content is sold.”
Yes, arguing that something should change is bizarre because that thing hasn’t changed yet. Great argument you have there. But we can at least give Murray credit for being blatantly open and honest about his desire to take technology tools away from Australian citizens.