Australians who pirate the latest episodes of Game of Thrones and blockbuster new-release movies may find it more difficult after court orders on Friday were issued to Australia's largest internet companies to block a number of websites.
Dozens of piracy websites including EZTV, ExtraTorrent, Rarbg and CartoonHD will be blocked by Australian internet service providers as a result of two court orders handed down in the Federal Court in Sydney today.
Australia routinely tops the list of countries pirating TV shows and films, and often those who do blame the previously lengthy delays in shows or movies airing in Australia compared with the United States.
In 2015, after years of agitating from the film studios to crack down on the practice, the federal government passed laws allowing entertainment companies to take Australian internet service providers to court and obtain a court order requiring the companies to block websites used primarily for the purpose of infringing on copyright.
The internet service providers block the IP addresses, domains and URLs of the websites and the associated mirror sites (duplicated versions of the same website) after receiving the orders.
Australians who want to access those websites without using bypassing technology such as virtual private networks are now greeted with a landing page or are unable to access the sites.
Since then, there have been several orders issued to block some of the largest piracy websites, including The Pirate Bay. To date there have been 65 major sites blocked and more than 250 domains.
But blocking piracy sites can be akin to a game of whack-a-mole, where for every site blocked, another pops up in its place. It's easy for the film companies to go back to court to get more mirror sites added to the blocked list, but when new websites pop up, new injunctions are required.
Australian pay TV company Foxtel (broadcaster of Game of Thrones in Australia), and film distribution company Village Roadshow have used the new law the most frequently, and both scored significant wins today with nearly 60 websites to be blocked.
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The blocks will need to be put in place within 15 business days from today's decision. The sites will be blocked by Telstra, Optus, TPG and M2, plus all their subsidiaries including iiNet, Internode, Virgin Mobile and Dodo.
Blocking a website costs the service provider about $50, and the film studios bear the cost for the blocks to be put in place.
Foxtel CEO Peter Tonagh said that the judgment was "another critical step in combating online piracy".
"Foxtel believes in the importance of educating people that accessing pirated content is not a victimless crime and we will continue to do our part in shedding light on the seriousness of intellectual property theft, while simultaneously helping to ensure our content is available quickly, easily and at a price that suits their budgets," he said in a statement.
Some of the offending websites were taken down during the case, but the order still applies if they have subsequently returned.