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Downloading Your Favourite Shows Is About To Get Really Difficult

Winter is coming ... for downloaders.

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A powerful Senate committee has given bipartisan backing to a bill designed to prevent Australians from accessing overseas pirating sites.

The copyright amendment (online infringement) bill 2015 would allow music companies and movie studios to apply to the Federal Court to compel internet service providers to prevent access to popular downloading and streaming sites.

It would mean ISPs such as Telstra and Optus could be forced to block sites like KickassTorrents, Project Free TV, and PirateBay in Australia.

The bill was given bipartisan approval by the Senate Standing Committees on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, subject to some minor amendments, meaning it is almost certain to be passed into law when it comes before parliament.

Consumer advocates Choice say the bill is just another way of filtering the internet.

"The government's paper ... confirms our fears. All Australian consumers will be affected if the proposed policies are pursued," Choice campaigns manager Erin Turner said in a release last year.

"Looking at international examples, we know that the policies proposed are high-cost with low results. Similar policies in France and New Zealand have cost significant amounts of money. Our fear is that a high-cost system will lead to all consumers paying more for the internet.

"If the government is serious about addressing piracy, it needs to consider the driving factors behind piracy in Australia. Australians often find it hard to gain access to content like movies and television, and when they do, they pay far too much compared to consumers in other countries."

The Greens say the bill should not be passed, although with support from Labor, the government will not need to rely on Green votes.

In its dissenting report, the Greens said the bill was the "latest in a long line of misguided attempts by the government to monitor, control and censor the Internet".

The report added: "There is also a significant weight of evidence showing that the Bill will not meet its aims, as it does not address the underlying cause of online copyright infringement: The continual refusal of offshore rights holders to make their content available in a timely, convenient and affordable manner to Australians."

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) also opposes the bill, because it does not address the use of VPNs to get around locally blocked sites.

"Many Australian consumers are already using Virtual Private Networks to access content that is geo-blocked in Australia, but there is much ambiguity around the legality of these," said ACCAN CEO Teresa Corbin. "The Bill is an opportunity to clarify the status of VPNs so that these services are not themselves subject to blocking, limiting consumer access to paid overseas content."

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