Music industry rejects wait on site-blocking ruling

Some of the world’s major record labels and music rights holders are persisting with a federal court bid to use new Australian legislation to make telcos block torrent file sharing sites.

Lawyers representing carriage service providers had asked the music rights holders to wait for the outcome of a similar case that Foxtel and Village Roadshow are pursuing against Australia’s four largest telcos Telstra, Optus, TPG and arguing it would minimise legal costs.

However, instead, lawyers representing CSPs told the court that their request had been “rebuffed” and music industry lawyers last week pushed ahead with legal arguments before Justice Burley.

The movie studios are applying for CSPs to place blocks on The Pirate Bay, SolarMovie, Torrentz, Torrentound and IsoHunt file sharing websites in Australia.

The music industry, led by Universal Music, Sony Music and Warner Music, want CSPs to block Australian internet users accessing eight internet domains operated by Kickass Torrents.

Late September, lawyers representing the music industry were granted leave to lodge an amended application to use the legislation to secure orders compelling a long list of Australian CSPs — many merely subsidiaries to larger internet company groups — to impose the blocks to which the court can only consent if its proven that their primary purpose is promoting piracy.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull introduced the legislation in March 2015 under his former guise as communications minister but the two cases brought before the federal court by the studios and music rights holders were expected to define the manner in which the legislation would be applied in future.

Relations between the parties involved in the case have been more cordial than during the landmark court battle between iiNet and Village Roadshow over authorisation infringement provisions of copyright law.

The court has been grappling with technical questions regarding the most effective way to apply the blocks with movie studios seeking a so-called “rolling injunction”. That would spare the studios the need to make multiple applications to the court every time a new piracy site was identified.

In that case, the CSPs have resisted the rolling injunction approach.

The music industry CSPs appear to be forming a consensus that domain name level blocking would be sufficient. There had been concerns that IP level blocking would lead to over-blocking in some cases as frequently more than one web site share a single IP.

However, in both cases the parties continue to be at loggerheads over the cost of the blocking regime and the proceedings going forward. The CSPs have also resisted the music industry’s requests for a mandatory landing page at a cost in excess of $3,000 per page.

Optus today revealed that it expected on going costs upwards of $12,500 per year in maintenance after establishing a system to comply with the new legislation.

TPG, which owns iiNet and other major CSP brands, estimated that, on average, it would cost about $50 for each domain name blocked.

Telstra kept its submission on blocking costs confidential.

The parties continued to argue over costs but Justice Burley has reserved his judgement on the matter to an unknown date.