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An industry group which represents organisations such as Twitter, Facebook, Yahoo, and Google has told an Australian Senate committee that the country’s plans to expand website blocking laws are “unprecedented and unnecessary”.
The Digital Industry Group (DIGI) made the eight-page submission to the Senate Standing on Environment and Communications on Friday, November 23.
It comes just days after Google criticised the Australian government’s proposals to amend the Copyright Act in its own submission to the committee.
Under the government’s plans, copyright owners would be able to seek injunctions against online search engines, requiring them to block search results which refer users to these blocked online locations.
Sites that “have started to provide access to the blocked site after the injunction is made” can be added to the injunction without the Federal Court of Australia needing to review the addition, under the proposal.
Another amendment allows copyright owners to obtain injunctions against not only the infringing sites, but also the appearance of the sites in searches. This means that providers, such as Google, might have to censor the search results they provide.
DIGI said that the site blocking amendments would “expand the scheme far beyond what is reasonable”, and also claimed that there is no need for the amendments.
As Google had argued, the group said that the proposed changes “are not supported by any evidence that the changes are required”.
“DIGI cannot understand the need for the allegedly urgent amendments contained in this bill, when the evidence suggests that the scheme is currently working well, and the majority of copyright holders did not support any changes to the scheme at this time,” the submission said.
Members of the group are “very concerned” that the proposal will potentially target legitimate online businesses.
As Google had pointed out in its own submission, the group called the plans to remove the Federal Court of Australia’s oversight from site blocking “highly problematic”.
It would leave the question of which websites should be blocked to commercial entities, raising the risk that “an inappropriately wide category of websites” would be targeted with site blocking orders, DIGI said.
DIGI said that, if the reform proceeds, it should be accompanied by a corresponding expansion to the safe harbour scheme which would stretch to include online service providers such as search engines.
Australia, online copyright infringement, site blocking, IP policy, search engines, injunctions, Federal Court of Australia, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo