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Australian courts are on the verge of blocking torrent sites, but it won’t fix anything

The Federal Court is set to decide whether it will order Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block copyright-infringing torrenting websites.

ABC News reports that the applications to block the sites have been lodged by copyright holders Foxtel and Village Roadshow.

The ISPs are not opposing the motion, which means it is likely the blocks will happen.

Included in the application are a total of 61 domains, including popular torrenting sites such as The Pirate Bay, Torrentz and IsoHunt.

This isn’t the first time we have heard about such blocks.

Last year, the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill was passed. It allows owners of content to apply for blocks – such as the one being presently debated.

In March, Australian ISPs locked horns with Foxtel and Village Roadshow over who should pay for the process. The original plan was to have a ‘three strikes’ system, in which pirates were monitored and given escalating warnings about their behaviour. However, as reported by CNET, this idea was abandoned due the question of costs.

Another problem is how to actually block the sites. According to Mashable, a lawyer for an ISP pointed out that it’s not simply a case of blocking IP addresses, since torrenting sites are able to change those quickly. For example, rather embarrassingly, one of the IP addresses in the Foxtel application against The Pirate Bay is no longer associated with that site.

Foxtel have since countered this with an idea to have a rolling injunction, which allows content owners to extend blocks to cover new pathways to torrenting sites as they appear.

Some have questioned the court actions, suggesting that it may be a case of government bowing to corporate masters.

Last year, ZDNet discovered that in 2014, Village Roadshow had donated over $300,000 to the Liberal Party and over $200,000 to the Labor Party. Hmmmm.

Look, we get it. The production of quality content costs money, and creative types have every right to protect their work. So why is piracy rampant in Australia?

The two major reasons are that Aussies have long been faced with higher prices for content and longer waiting periods to get it. In short, we have traditionally got our media dearer and later. Bummer.

This has driven many an Aussie into the arms of pirates. Last year, we won the dubious title of most illegal downloads per capita of some leaked Game of Thrones episodes.

In all honesty, it doesn’t look like piracy can be stopped. Mirror sites and VPNs mean that people who really want to pirate will always be able to.

It seems that the best way to combat it is to offer affordable, timely and quality content.

Streaming services such as Netflix come to mind. In the US, the surge in Netflix traffic has already been linked to a decline in torrenting.

Local content owners can look to this news with optimism. And with streaming services here taking off, it’s clear that Australians are willing to pay for content.

For a generation who grew up with Napster and BitTorrent, the moral side to the argument is a hard sell. Pirates aren’t necessarily bad people, they just got used to the idea that stuff on the internet is free.

So you can block all the sites you want, but the best counter to piracy is a better offer.

Legal streaming services are the way forward here, not court cases.

About the author

Stefan is an Adelaide-based writer who has returned to Australia after living in Taiwan for 14 years. In his spare time he plays nerdy board games, collects vinyl and brushes up on his Mandarin.

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