With a collective groan from music downloaders and collective rejoicing from the entertainment industry, a new anti-piracy bill has been passed into law. The Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015 introduced by Malcolm Turnbull is designed to curb one thing that Australians are world leaders in: illegal downloading.
The new law will give power to companies to block access to overseas websites that are involved in piracy. It’s not that simple though, of course. To block a website, the company would have to launch a case in the Federal Court of Australia to force internet service providers to take reasonable steps to block the sites.
As always, the move can almost certainly be sidestepped fairly easily by those who are savvy in all things Internet. Much like how many people re-routed their connection to access Netflix US before it came to Australia, a simple VPN (which disguises location) may be enough to dodge the new law, and has not been targeting in the new legislation. ASTRA (Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association) has said that VPN provide a “potential” loophole to the system. It is a loophole that Australians have long feasted on, with an alleged 200 000 people using VPNs to access overseas content. Plus, a quick Google means a veritable host of options to access blocked websites appears at one’s fingertips. Trying to fight the constantly evolving Internet with the law? The courts certainly have a battle on their hands.
Had this law materialised a few years ago, the impact would have been a whole lot worse on music downloaders. However, with affordable streaming now commonplace with Spotify, Tidal and the oncoming firefight with Apple Music launching in the coming months, fewer and fewer people are downloading music illegally. The film industry are far more at risk here – and even there, services like Netflix, Stan, BBC iPlayer and so on are discouraging people from hitting up The Pirate Bay or Kickass Torrents. More importantly, Australians have long held on the minute moral high ground that we merely stream movie and download music due to the lack of legal options.
With Spotify, Apple Music and Netflix, illegal downloading is less and less hard to justify. The entertainment industry is hoping Australia will replicate the UK’s 77% drop in piracy after similar legislation was introduced.
Let the debate rage as the industry undergoes yet another shift. If nothing else, it finally means Spotify and Apple Music can celebrate on something together.