Opinion: Australia’s New Website Blocking

Australians may find that over the Christmas break their favorite torrent site will no longer load. Certain websites are getting blocked in Australia due to a court ruling which is going to accomplish very little in my opinion, and here’s why:

Copyright holders have had a successful ruling that Australian ISPs have to block five torrent websites – The Pirate Bay, Torrentz, TorrentHound, IsoHunt and SolarMovie. Each domain blocked will cost the copyright holders $50.

Looking past any piracy arguments beyond the fact that piracy is copyright infringement (not theft) – there are many glaringly obvious problems with this ruling that will end up achieving very little.

this is a mere selection of the torrent sites that exist, and many people will just move onto another.

If they don’t do that, they might google ‘how to access piratebay’ and click on one of the first hits: https://thepiratebay-proxylist.org/ – which is a list of sites that proxy through the original website’s content via a ‘middle’ domain.

The time the courts has given ISPs to negotiate with the copyright holders, decide on a method of blocking, and implement was 15 days – a ridiculously short time to do something like this well.

Telstra have already implemented DNS blocking which is one of the easiest to implement, and also one of the easiest to work around.

DNS blocking works by redirecting traffic from a client when it requests to go to a certain site – e.g. https://thepiratebay.org/ – which would normally have the site owner’s IP address mapped to it. Instead they’re getting in the middle and presenting their own warning page. You can also just use a different DNS server than what your ISP automatically gives you, such as Google’s own at IP 8.8.8.8 – making this fairly pointless. Anyone that’s worked out how to torrent, can work out one of the several ways to bypass a DNS block.

If ISPs choose to do IP blocking instead, that will lead to other issues as well, and still won’t do any blocking about the proxy sites. Of course sites can also change IPs regularly.

Edit: While writing this it appears other ISPs such as Optus have implemented the same DNS blocking:

What is all this trying to achieve then?

There is the whole fear factor aspect of big brother watching which may convince people that see these messages to swear off pirating for the rest of their life. The recent letters for Australians caught downloading Dallas Buyers Club scared some people, but everyone I’ve spoken to that was worried either started using a VPN, or went back to the old sneakernet method of getting material from others who hadn’t changed their ways.

If anything, services like Getflix were the only winners, proving both DNS bypassing for overseas content as well as VPN services.

I don’t see any difference in this particular legal case. It gives more attention to the topic, but nothing will really change.

The whole ‘make getting material easy, cheap and worldwide’ argument still applies as demonstrated by services like Netflix, iTunes and the Apple store.

Maybe the best approach would be micro transaction fines to copyright infringement, payable online at the time of downloading a movie or TV show. Wait, that’s pretty much what iTunes is anyway!

It is an unwinnable battle for the copyright holders to go after pirates (rightly or wrongly it’s still how it is) which leaves them the single answer of providing a reasonable, paid service most will use to consume their media.

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