Website-blocking inquiry pushes back reporting date

Inquiry into copyright enforcement bill has held only a single public hearing

A Senate committee has pushed back the reporting date of an inquiry into a bill that will potentially force ISPs to stop their customers from accessing websites linked to piracy.

The Senate Standing Committees on Legal and Constitutional Affairs had been due to table today its report on the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015.

The bill, which is intended to cut down on online piracy, will allow rights holders to apply for a court order that will force an ISP to block access to a particular 'online location'.

Yesterday the Senate extended the reporting deadline until 29 May.

The inquiry has featured only a single public hearing, attended by two senators.

The bill has proved controversial among advocates for civil liberties and representatives of consumer groups for its potential to act as a de facto Internet filter and the cost of implementing the system.

The proposal has won the support of representatives of content industries, some of whom have pushed to expand the bill's scope or lower the threshold for granting a website block.

Along with a warning notice scheme developed under the auspices of Communications Alliance, the bill is a major component of the government's crackdown on copyright infringement.

There is also a separate ongoing inquiry into Section 313(3) of the Telecommunications Act 1997. That section of the Telco Act has been used by government agencies, to force ISPs to block customer access to certain websites allegedly linked to illegal activities. (Most infamously, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission in a case that led to the mistaken blocking of thousands of unrelated sites.)

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