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Waters for Pirate Websites Shrinking

In Roadshow Films Pty Ltd v Telstra Corporation Ltd (No 2) [2017] FCA 965, the Federal Court continued to press the issue of blocking illegal streaming services under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) (‘Act’).

The Federal Court issued website-blocking injunctions under section 115A of the Act against Telstra and many other Australian carriage service providers that requires them to take reasonable steps to block their customers’ access to foreign online locations and URLs that allow them to illegally stream content. Some of the more notable websites targeted include KissCartoon, WatchFree, PrimeWire, Movie4K, Putlocker and Kinogo.

The decision reinforces the Court’s enduring stance towards blocking illegal website streaming services (following the first website blocking case of Roadshow Films Pty Ltd v Telstra Corporation Ltd (2016) [2016] FCA 1503). However, it also demonstrates the inherent limitations of Court-awarded remedies in the context of cross-jurisdictional matters. Australian courts cannot enforce website-blocking remedies against foreign website operators unless those operators voluntarily choose to submit to the Court’s jurisdiction. In circumstances where Australian service providers are forced by court injunction to block a particular foreign website, the foreign website operator can simply continue his or her operation through a new website.

The action was brought by Village Roadshows, who were backed by Warner Bros, Paramount, Universal, Disney and 21st Century Fox. Industry backing from these major US players indicates that content producers are aware of the damage that illegally streamed services can have on their revenue streams and are willing to aggressively pursue infringers. At the same time, the decision indicates an increasing onus on Australian carriage service providers to actively restrict and police the content to which they provide access.

If you have any concerns or queries regarding your rights and obligations under the Copyright Act or regarding online streaming services, feel free to contact our Business team by submitting an online enquiry or calling us on (07) 5592 1921.