As site-blocking measures come into effect, rights holders prepare to pursue pirates individually.

EVEN with new site blocking measures coming into effect, rights holder are planning to individually sue persistent online pirates “later this year”.
ONLINE piracy in Australia took a major hit last week with the announcement that 42 illegal torrent and streaming sites would be blocked by internet service providers in the coming weeks.

But for Aussie pirates who are intent on finding a way around the new blocks, rights holders are already planning to bring individual legal action against offenders. Film distribution company Village Roadshow — backed by Disney, 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, Columbia Pictures, Universal Studios and Warner Bros — successfully argued that, while websites used to illegally download content are located overseas, they are accessible to Australians via local internet service providers who need to do more the prevent access.

Federal Court Justice John Nicholas on Friday ordered internet providers, including Telstra, Optus, TPG and Vocus along with brands operated by them, to take “reasonable steps” to disable access to 42 websites that breach copyright laws, such as Pirate Bay, 123Movies, PrimeWire, MegaShare, EZTV, Limetorrents, Project Free TV, and Watch Series, within 15 days.

It was a huge win for rights holders but they’re not resting on their laurels.

Graham Burke is the chairman of Creative Content Australia and is also the co-executive chairman and co-chief executive of Village Roadshow. Speaking to the Australian Financial Review, he signalled the intention of rights holders to individually sue pirates who continue to infringe upon copyright laws even with the new site blocking measures in place.

“We will identify people who are stealing our product, we will ask them do they have ill health or dire circumstances, and if they do and undertake to stop, we’ll drop the case,” he said. If they don’t back down, rights holders will “pursue them vigorously and sue for damages”.

He said his company was already working through the process to sue individual copyright infringers “later in the year” as the crackdown enters the next phase. In contrast to a major case last year in which the rights holders sought the personal information of those identified as having illegally downloaded or shared the film The Dallas Buyers Club, Mr Burke said they wouldn’t seek dramatic financial penalties but rather sue for costs.

“We will be looking for damages commensurate with what they’ve done. We’ll be saying ‘You’ve downloaded our Mad Max: Fury Road, our Red Dog, and we want $40 for the four movies plus $200 in costs,’” he told the Financial Review.

The ruling on Friday also coincided with a separate case brought by TV provider Foxtel* against TPG Internet, where Federal Court Justice Stephen Burley ordered several internet service providers to block 17 sites.

Mr Burke said the Federal Court judgments would help save hundreds of millions of dollars in the film industry.
“It is a major development and a historical moment for Australians,” he told AAP, adding the blocks make up around 95 per cent of the offending websites.