Village Roadshow will team up with Hollywood heavyweights in the Australian Federal Court to force internet service providers to block customers’ access to a website that streams copyrighted movies and TV shows like Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead and Deadpool. This move is the first major test of Australia’s new site-blocking laws under the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015 introduced in the middle of last year.
The site that Village and its Hollywood compatriots are trying to block is SolarMovie, a site registered to a Phillipines domain name that provides links to stream hundreds of allegedly copyright-infringing movies and TV shows online. According to the site, “SolarMovie provides links to other sites on the internet and doesn’t host any files itself”, but it is the links and access that Village will be objecting to in Federal Court.
In partnership with Warner Bros, 21st Century Fox, Paramount, Universal, Sony and Disney, Village Roadshow will attempt to have SolarMovie blocked by ISPs in Australia, restricting users from accessing the sites from an Australian IP — although VPN access is unlikely to be affected as it is impossible to effectively enforce. According to the SMH, other rights-holders are preparing Federal Court actions, including Foxtel and Australia’s music industry, to block similar copyright infringing sites.
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Speaking to SMH, Village Roadshow chief exec Graham Burke said that the move was intended to block “parasites” that cost the film industry and other creative media millions of dollars invested in the production of movies and TV shows hosted by sites like SolarMovie. “The pirates, they steal other people’s creativity and they have advertising and it’s millions of dollars and they provide nothing. Not one job or any creative input into the community.” There is little likelihood that Village will be unsuccessful in its attempt, as SolarMovie does not appear to have any links to any Australian companies or individuals that would be able to speak in its defence.
In the most recent high-profile copyright infringement case to go before the Federal Court, Dallas Buyers Club rights-holder Voltage Pictures failed in its attempt to gain access to the user details of 4726 iiNet customers that it alleged had downloaded or partially downloaded copies of the movie through Bit-Torrent. That legal action was seen as potentially precedent-setting for rights-holders pursuing infringers within Australia, but DBC gave up on the attempt after being stymied by court restrictions on the data it could access and continual rebuffing on the nature of the infringement letters it intended to send iiNet customers.