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Australian movie boss wants web-blocking extended to Google

By | Published on Friday 23 March 2018

Internet

Rights owners in Australia are calling for web-blocking rules there to be boosted so that search engines are obliged to de-list any sites blocked on copyright grounds.

Web-blocking, of course, has become an anti-piracy tactic of choice for the entertainment industry in any country where such blockades are available. Rights owners go to court to seek injunctions forcing internet service providers to block their customers from accessing copyright infringing sites.

The main weakness with web-blocking, though, is that it is relatively easy to circumvent the blockades with a simple Google search. Once a site has been officially blocked people set up proxies that help users get round the blocks, and search engines make it relatively easy for people to find those services.

Additional injunctions can be secured against each proxy, but that quickly becomes a game of whack-a-mole as new proxies are set up to replace the blocked ones. To that end there has much discussion in countries where web-blocking is an option about search engines playing a more proactive role in helping enforce the blockades.

Australia’s web-blocking regime is up for review, and submissions from movie company Village Roadshow and TV broadcaster Foxtel both hone in on the role Google could and should play in helping stop consumers from accessing illegal sources of content. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given he recently accused Google of “facilitating crime”, the submission from Village Roadshow boss Graham Burke is particularly forthright.

In his letter, published in full by Gizmodo, Burke confirms that his company both supports and has utilised Australia’s current web-blocking system before adding that he now “strongly supports strengthening it”.

He states: “With all major pirate sites blocked in Australia, the front door of the department store is shut. However, pirates, facilitated by Google and other search engines, are circumventing Australian laws and courts and opening a huge back door … Australia needs the power to require Google and other search engines to take reasonable steps to stop facilitating searches which lead to pirate sites”.

Expanding on his department store metaphor, he goes on: “The analogy for Google is a Westfield Shopping Centre knowing they are getting big traffic to the centre from a store that is using stolen goods to lure people and then robbing them!”

In terms of the specific review of web-blocking rules, Burke calls for Australia’s web-blocking provision to be widened so that injunctions can be secured against search engines, social media and “other types of internet intermediaries”.

Adopting the kind of dramatic pose you might expect from a movie mogul, Burke then goes on: “With a population of only 25 million, if piracy is not more strongly addressed there will be no Australian film industry, with the loss of jobs, taxation and the very real and bleak prospects of being a remote Los Angeles or Beijing suburb”.

Piling on the drama, he later says: “Easy access facilitated by Google means kids are crossing to the dark side and getting lured into bad habits and taken to criminal neighbourhoods that proliferate with prostitution, pornography, drug selling and illegal gambling”.

As for how Australian lawmakers can help, he concludes: “With the minor modification we recommend to the law, we can improve the effectiveness of site blocking and continue to make progress on dealing with the scourge of piracy which continues to threaten the livelihood of thousands of Australians engaged in creative endeavours seeking to continue to tell great Australian stories through the medium of film”.



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