New anti-piracy bill and what it means


What the anti-piracy law will mean

Compared with other parts of the world, Australians pay top dollar for access to popular television shows, movies and music. Dubbed "the Australia tax", the high cost of entertainment has driven many Australians to download creative software that gives them free access to premium pirated content. But with the new anti-piracy bill, we're set to start paying even more, as internet service providers (ISPs) will be forced to block access to copyright-infringing websites. Even sports streaming sites are set to see the axe, with television networks expected to claim back their rights to content.

Why will it cost me more?

New anti-piracy laws

The bill estimates that it will cost ISPs around $130,000 a year to comply with the new laws, which may cause users to feel the pinch. The consumer advocate group Choice claims the bill will lead to a decrease in competition and subsequently an increase in costs for Australian consumers.

Will I still be able to use my VPN?

It's been a topic of hot debate, but the short answer is yes - you still will be able to use your virtual private network. The new legislation requires ISPs to block overseas sites that facilitate the infringement of copyright. This includes sites accessed on a VPN but only if that VPN's primary purpose is to infringe copyright.

VPNs aren't always necessarily used for downloading illegal content. Many Australians use VPNs to protect their privacy. VPNs can block your history from marketing services and protect your personal details when shopping online - some businesses even use them to prevent sensitive information from leaking to the public. So basically, unless you've chosen a VPN that openly states that it can be used for geo-blocking, you're probably not going to hear from the authorities any time soon. However, the place of VPNs in the new copyright amendment is said to be scheduled for further discussion, so I'd think twice about signing up for US Netflix if I were you.

How will the new law affect me?

Largely, the latest copyright amendment affects ISPs, which become responsible for blocking copyright-infringing websites. But those using VPNs to stream or purchase overseas content are still at risk of being prosecuted. If your VPN is routed through a country with data retention laws, you have every chance of being caught out by copyright holders. The fines can be up to $10,000, so it's a very expensive gamble to take. But thanks to the Australian Communications and Media Authority's Copyright Notice Scheme Code 2015, users won't be totally off the hook. As of September 1, users caught infringing copyright will be subject to a three-strike policy. After that third warning, your ISP will have no choice but to surrender your details to the copyright holder. It will be much like what piraters of Dallas Buyers Club are experiencing now.

Users who have previously downloaded Dallas Buyers Club will be hit with a large fine by the production company, Voltage, which will take their piracy history and salary into account. The company has said that it will force ISPs to send a letter to all 4726 users who illegally viewed the film, threatening those who don't pay with legal action. If you happen to receive a letter from Voltage, iiNet has offered to provide free legal advice.

Steph Nash, staff writer



Steph Nash was a staff writer at Money until 2017.
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