It appears the current extortion of TV and movie providers is about to be passed into law.

A cross-party Senate committee has approved a landmark bill cracking down on illegal torrenting. The bill gives power to off-shore big businesses to block sites that offer pirated content.

Big copyright holders, such as Hollywood studios and record companies, would be able to apply to the Federal Court to enforce a block on offending sites by Australian carriers.

Without the consent of Australian internet users copyright holders would be able to apply to Australian courts to have access to sites disabled. Furthermore, the applicants would not have to establish whether the carriage service providers, housing the site, were liable for the offending content.

The bill says copyright holders would need to establish: “intentionally high threshold test”, only sites “flagrantly disregarding the rights of copyright owners” would be blocked.

The cross-party committee has recommended the law be passed with only minor amendments.

Consumer advocacy group Choice is outraged. They call the law a virtual “industry-run internet filter” that would “limit access to international websites that offer consumers a greater range of more affordable products and services.

“At its heart, this is about protecting uncompetitive local industries who have failed to provide timely and affordable content and services,” said Choice Campaigns Manager Erin Turner.

And who can argue with her?

Australians have had their access to international virtual private networks (VPNs) blocked in order for Australian content providers to charge more for less content variety.

A survey in September 2014 by choice found that Australians can pay up to 400 per cent more for some subscription television content, 261 per cent more for iTunes, 219 per cent more on Google Play, and 426 per cent more on Foxtel Play.

No wonder Australians are downloading pirated content.

The US version of Netflix (as another example) was being accessed by Australians through VPNs as it provided a wider variety of current content at much cheaper prices than any content provider in Australia. So those content providers sought for (and were granted) injunctions blocking access to those VPNs.

This is outright anti-competitive behaviour!

Moreover, those paying for a full subscription to Foxtel (the only official carrier of the Game of Thrones series in Australia) were unable to access any episode until the entire season had finished!

So what are they paying for?

“We know both sides of politics are under a lot of pressure from big rights holders to support this new law, and it looks like they have given in,” said Ms Turner.

This bill does little more than make pirated content providers culpable for the greed of Hollywood movie and music producers.

If they were less greedy more people would do the right thing. It’s as simple as that.

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