Online copyright infringement of movies and website blocking by CSPs: Roadshow Films Pty Ltd v Telstra Corporation Ltd [2016] FCA 1503 (15 December 2016)

The Federal Court of Australia has made the first reported orders under the new s.115A of the Copyright Act 1958 (Cth) by requiring numerous Australian carriage service providers to disable access[1], for up to 3 years[2], to various websites whose “primary purpose” is the infringement or facilitation of infringement of copyright.

The Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Act 2015 (Cth) amended the Copyright Act 1958 (Cth) by introducing s.115A. s.115A provides that the Federal Court of Australia may, on application by the owner of a copyright, grant an injunction to require a carriage service provider to take reasonable steps to disable access to an online location if:

  • a carriage service provider provides access to an online location outside Australia;
  • the online location infringes, or facilitates the infringement of, the copyright; and
  • the primary purpose of the online location is to infringe, or to facilitate the infringement of, copyright (whether or not in Australia).

The purpose of the scheme under the new s.115A is to allow a specific and targeted remedy to prevent online locations which flagrantly disregard the rights of copyright owners from facilitating access to infringing copyright content. Knowledge or intention on the part of the carriage service provider is not required; the specific and targeted remedy exists simply to bring an end to access to such online locations without the need for lengthy factual enquiries associated with copyright infringement actions of the kind seen in Roadshow Films Pty Ltd v iiNet Ltd [2012] HCA 16.

There is a high threshold test to be satisfied, namely, that the “primary purpose” of the online location must be to infringe. The case[3] provides guidance on the evidence that will satisfy a Court in this regard.

The time at which the Court must be satisfied of the elements in s.115A is the time of granting of the injunction. The making of the application for an injunction must be notified to both the carriage service provider and the person operating the alleged infringing online location (unless their identity cannot be ascertained despite reasonable efforts).

The rights owners were required to pay the arguably nominal compliance costs of the carriage service providers in complying with the orders (calculated as a sum per domain name), in addition to the carriage service providers’ legal costs. The carriage service providers were not awarded / not all of them sought their costs of setting up and configuring the necessary systems (i.e. website blocking systems) in order to comply with s.115A. s.115A (9) provides that the carriage service provider is not liable for any costs in relation to the proceedings unless the provider enters an appearance and takes part in the proceedings. It would seem that such costs should be quantifiable by reference to “the proceedings”, if considered commercial to spend time undertaking that exercise.

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[1] By implementing DNS blocking, IP address blocking, URL blocking or any other alternative technical means of disabling access to the online locations (outside Australia) of various websites whose primary purpose is the infringement or facilitation of the infringement of copyright

[2] Capable of extension for another 3 years in the case of continued infringement

[3] As does the revised explanatory memorandum to the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015

The information provided in this article is provided by way of general information only. It does not constitute legal advice, and should not be relied upon as such. Specific independent legal advice should be obtained before deciding to act, or not to act, upon the views expressed or information contained in this article.

Copyright of Heathfield Grosvenor 2016. All rights reserved.

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