Website blocking ineffective, dangerous in piracy fight: Google

Search giant warns against measures that could "jeopardise the security and integrity of the Internet"

If the government introduces a system that allows rights holders to force ISPs to block access to piracy websites, more ASIC-style debacles are likely to occur, Google has warned.

In a submission (PDF) responding to the government's copyright reform discussion paper, Google raised the spectre of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission's attempt to block websites involved in investment fraud, which led to access to unrelated websites being blocked.

In 2013, requests issued by ASIC to ISPs under Section 313 of Telecommunications Act 1997 led to the blocking of a number of websites unrelated to fraud.

Section 313 of the act is currently the subject of a parliamentary inquiry. In a submission to that inquiry, ASIC revealed that the teams ordering ISPs to block their customers' access to nominated IP addresses had not realised more than one website could use the same IP address.

The government's copyright discussion paper, released in July, cites the ability in a number of EU nations for rights holders to get injunctions that force ISPs to block access to "internet sites that contain infringing content."

"This approach recognises the difficulties in taking enforcement action against entities operating outside the relevant jurisdiction, by giving rights holders an avenue to take immediate action and provides ISPs with the certainty and legal protection of a court order."

Under the proposal in the paper, the court would need to be satisfied that the "dominant purpose" of a website was to infringe copyright. Proving this would be the job of rights holders.

The court would also have to consider the "rights of any person likely to be affected" by such an injunction, "whether an injunction is a proportionate response, and "the importance of freedom of expression."

Google's response said that there are indications that blocking websites is "an ineffective means of stopping piracy".

As evidence, Google cites a paper titled Clickonomics: Determining the Effect of Anti-Piracy Measures for One-Click Hosting.

The paper, presented at 20th Annual Network and Distributed System Security Symposium, concluded that given the difficulties of "reducing the supply of pirated content, it appears to be promising to follow a complementary strategy of reducing the demand for pirated content, e.g., by providing legitimate offers that are more attractive to consumers than pirating content."

Using IP address or domain names to block access to content is an "inherently blunt instrument for tackling piracy," Google's submission states. As well as being ineffective at stopping copyright infringement there is the potential for measures such as DNS filtering to "jeopardise the security and integrity of the Internet".

Follow the money

Google endorsed a 'follow the money' strategy which would target the revenue of sites involved in copyright infringement.

"These sites are almost exclusively for-profit enterprises, and so long as there is money to be made by their operators, other anti-piracy strategies will be far less effective," the submission states, noting the search company's own efforts to ban piracy sites from its AdSense network.

In their responses to the government's discussion paper, the Communications Alliance and iiNet have also backed a 'follow the money' strategy.

Read more: Copyright conflict: Who pays still a sticking point for rights holders, ISPs

Follow Rohan on Twitter: @rohan_p

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