Countdown begins for Australia's new website-blocking regime

Bipartisan support for controversial anti-piracy scheme

In an entirely predictable show of bipartisanship, Labor and the Coalition last night in the Senate passed the government's copyright enforcement legislation.

The legislation will allow rights holders to obtain court orders blocking Australians' access to overseas websites linked to piracy.

Opposing the legislation were the Australian Greens, Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party Senator Ricky Muir, Liberal Democratic Party Senator David Leyonhjelm, and independent senators Jacqui Lambie and Glenn Lazarus.

Amendments moved by the Greens' communications spokesperson, Senator Scott Ludlam, were shot down by Labor and the Coalition.

His second reading amendment would have delayed debate on the legislation until the government responded to the Australian Law Reform Commission's report on copyright and the digital economy.

The Senate, however, did pass a Labor amendment calling for the government to respond to the 2013 ALRC report by 17 September this year.

None of Ludlam's amendments to the text of the bill, which would have explicitly protected VPNs, permitted geoblocking circumvention, and narrowed the scope of online services that will potentially be blocked under the copyright enforcement scheme, won majority support.

Ludlam expressed concern in the first part of the Senate debate that the scope of services blocked under the scheme will expand over time.

Now that the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015 has been passed by both houses of parliament, it awaits royal assent by the governor general.

According to the Office of Parliamentary Counsel, that process typically takes seven to 10 working days. The legislation takes effect the day after it receives royal assent.

The government has predicted that there will be around 10 site-blocking injunctions per year under the scheme.

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