Aussie Rightsholders Look To Feature Creep Site-Blocking To Search-Blocking, Because Of Course They Are

from the not-a-bug dept

When it comes to censorship in the name of copyright, we’ve made the point time and again that opening this door an inch will cause supporters of censorship to try to barge through and open it all the way. Inevitably, when a population tries to satiate the entertainment industry by giving them just a little censorship, that industry will ask for more and more and more.

A good example of this can be seen right now in Australia. Like far too many countries, Australia began a site-blocking practice three or so years ago. Currently, the Department of Commnications is asking for feedback on the effectiveness of this practice as well as feedback on each step in the process itself. The way it works in Australia is that rightsholders have to get an initial injunction which then winds its way to a site being blocked as a “pirate site.” Well, for the largest entertainment industry groups in Australia, the feedback is essentially, “This is great, let’s censor even more!”

The most aggressive submissions come from the two companies that have made the most use of the blocking scheme so far – movie group Village Roadshow and TV provider Foxtel. Together the companies have had dozens of sites blocked in Australia by local ISPs but now they want the blocking regime expanded to online service platforms too. Indeed, in the Roadshow and Foxtel submissions combined, Google is mentioned no less than 29 times as being part of the piracy problem Down Under.

“Village Roadshow strongly supported the original site blocking legislation and now we strongly support strengthening it,” Village Roadshow co-chief Graham Burke writes. “With all major pirate sites blocked in Australia, the front door of the department store is shut. However, pirates, facilitated by Google and other search engines, are circumventing Australian Laws and Courts and opening a huge back door. Australia needs the power to require Google and other search engines to take reasonable steps to stop facilitating searches which lead to pirate sites.”

In case it isn’t obvious, these attacks on Google are plainly absurd. Google is a search company and it makes its money by returning the best results for what people are searching. Whether that is infringing content or not doesn’t matter to Google. Only the usefulness of its search results matters. It’s also not clear why, if the site-blocking through ISPs is as effective as Village Roadshow says, they should also need Google to delist so-called “pirate sites.” Aren’t those sites being blocked by ISPs? If a Google search can somehow defeat the site-blocking, then the site-blocking isn’t nearly as effective as advertised.

But Village Roadshow doubles down with a hilariously wrong analogy later in its submission.

“The analogy for Google is a Westfield Shopping Centre knowing they are getting big traffic to the center from a store that is using stolen goods to lure people and then robbing them!” he writes.

I’ve never had pain from my eyes rolling so hard until reading that sentence. Still, the people in Australia should be paying attention, because what Village Roadshow and its cohorts want is to extend the censoring of sites it deems to be “pirate sites” to “intermediary service providers”, which means search companies and social media companies Suddenly, the sharing tool that is the internet and social media will live at the pleasure of entertainment industries that have never, ever, ever been able to accurately determine what is a “pirate site” and what is just an otherwise useful site with some users that are infringing on some copyrights.

It’s also worth noting that search companies had already voluntarily agreed to demote infringing sites in search results. Foxtel, the other large entertainment industry player in Australia, noted as much in its own comment submission, before going on to hand-wave it away as insufficient.

Village Roadshow, Foxtel doesn’t appear to be content with demotion – blocking and delisting is the aim.

“Foxtel strongly believes that extending the site blocking powers to search engines so that they must remove copyright infringing sites from search results would have a substantial impact on reducing piracy in Australia,” the company says.

“Search engines already remove URLs from site indexes to comply with local laws and product community standards and therefore, technologically Foxtel understands it would be a relatively simple exercise for search engines to comply with Australian blocking orders.”

Creep, creep, creep. That is how this works. If you open the door an inch, they will come barging through. And it’s worth repeating again that the entertainment industry has never been able to be accurate in its accusations. So what Village Roadshow and Foxtel are really asking for is broad power to censor sites from most of the common internet platforms and search engines that most people use when they have not shown the ability to treat that kind of responsibility with care. And, indeed, they actually want the bar to be lowered as to what is a “pirate site.”

While none of the above is particularly new in the global scheme of things, it’s interesting to note that even when agreements are reached and new legislation is formed, rightsholders always keep pushing for more.

That’s clearly highlighted in the Foxtel submission when the company says that the threshold for determining a pirate site should be lowered. Currently, a site must have a “primary purpose” to “infringe, or to facilitate the infringement” of copyright. Foxtel sees this as being too high.

So a site should be considered a pirate site even if the purpose of the site isn’t to be a pirate site? Cool. What could possibly go wrong with that?

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Comments on “Aussie Rightsholders Look To Feature Creep Site-Blocking To Search-Blocking, Because Of Course They Are”

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Captain Kangaroo says:

The purpose of Banks isn't necessarily to permit

money laundering, but it happens.

“The analogy for Google is a Westfield Shopping Centre knowing they are getting big traffic to the center from a store that is using stolen goods to lure people and then robbing them!”

Are they saying that Westfield is robbing them, or the store full of lures? Perhaps if you have ever been a tenant in those massive shopping centres, might you feel that way?

Also, are we talking about stolen goods as a lure, or just attractive goods?

So can we lure people to the store with stolen goods, but not rob them?, Or use non-stolen goods as the lure, but still rob the customers, or is Westfield being accused of robbing the customers, in cahoots with the stolen-goods store?

Remember, you wouldn’t download the plans for a death star.

Anonymous Coward says:

the obvious thing is, what i have said so many times, the entertainment industries want total control of the Internet, want to be able to dictate which sites are allowed on the ‘net, want to control what content is allowed on the sites they allow and want to control who can visit those sites that are allowed and have allowed content. even more so, they want to be able to control what can be uploaded, by whom and who can download what they have decided they have allowed to be uploaded! once they have achieved all of this (and it’s getting closer by the day, thanks to governments and courts always throwing everything and everyone under the bus, favoring to take whatever BS the entertainment industries put out as being gospel!) the like of torrents for uploading/downloading will become the best thing since meat came in little boxes and the charges are then able to be the same as when a customer walks into a high street store and makes a purchase. the difference will be that the Internet customer WONT own the download for ever, just temporarily, WONT have anything physical as far as a disk is concerned, WONT be able to transcode or format shift the files for use on a different platform, WONT have any protective case and WONT have any of the artwork that is associated with the high street purchase, having been ripped off, again, by an industry that is so selfish, so obnoxious, so stuck up it’s own ass, so full of self-imposed piss and importance, so determined to get as much money as possible FOR THE HEADS OF THE STUDIOS (BUT NOT FOR THE ARTISTS AND WORKERS) for doing fuck all except hampering innovation and progress of so many things on the Planet, nothing less will do!

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Stop letting them refer to their content as "property"

This is all down to letting the rightholders refer to their content as property instead of calling it something else, e.g. “temporary monopoly privilege” which is what it is.

As Tim correctly says, if you give ’em an inch, they’ll take a mile. The only way to gain control of the narrative off them is to gain control of the nomenclature.

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Stop letting them refer to their content as "property"

Not all property is subject to property tax; as far as I’m aware, it’s mainly real estate (land and buildings constructed thereon) which gets taxed that way.

Cars, computers, televisions, phones, armchairs, tables, carpets, trash cans, clocks, lamps, dishes, silverware, clothing, beds, and so on and so forth, are all forms of property, and very few if any of them are taxed in any jurisdiction.

Those who call these other things "intellectual property" would counter your implied argument by simply asserting that they’re among the many types of property which are not subject to property tax.

(Of course, given that – unlike so many of the listed types of property, but like real estate – these other things are amenable to rent-seeking practices, maybe a property tax would be appropriate…)

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Stop letting them refer to their content as "property"

Are you sure? I don’t remember a recurring vehicle tax on either of my two cars.

There is a fee for the license plate, representing the license which permits me to drive them on public roads – but that’s not for ownership of the car itself, and in theory driving a car without one on private property would be legal with the permission of the owner of that property. (In fact, IIRC one of my two cars no longer has such a license, and indeed I don’t drive it.)

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