A very common, but often overlooked area of law is copyright law. In fact, copyright law affects our everyday lives, which many people don’t recognise. A common example of copyright law is piracy. Below are 5 things you might not know about piracy in Australia.

1. Piracy is illegal

Given the overwhelming resources provided on the Internet nowadays, people have a tendency to underestimate the illegality of piracy activities. However, just because many people are doing something, it doesn’t make it legal.

Piracy refers to the accessing of copyright materials without the authorisation of the copyright owner. It is therefore illegal and infringes copyright law. In Australia, there is no registration process for copyrighted material, and it is automatically protected under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). That means that copyright law in Australia operates on a national level and doesn’t change depending on what State you’re in.

2. The main issues in Australia

With the help of technology, people can easily access digital content such as music, movies and games on the Internet, whether legally or illegally. According to a report released by the Department of Communications and the Arts, statistics suggest that there is a significant increase of 10% from 2015 to 2018 in the number of users relying solely on legal digital content providers. That being said, there remains approximately 33% that consume digital content either entirely or partly illegally. Moreover, 6% of the infringers claim that ‘nothing would stop them’ consuming illegal content. Among the four categories divided by the report (music, games, movies and tv), online movies seem to be the most frequent area unlawfully consumed.

The problem of piracy is that it can diminish the incentive for people to be creative, as artists, musicians, actors, directors and other alike are not getting paid for their work.

3. Government measures to combat piracy in Australia

The Government amended the Copyright Act 1968 and introduced s 115A in 2015 to tackle the relentless online piracy problem.. The amendments allow a copyright owner to make an application to the Federal Court for an injunction to require a Carriage Service Provider (CSP) disable access to an overseas online location that infringes the copyright. These sanctions seem to have had a significant effect.

In Oct 2018, the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2018 was introduced to the parliament with the purpose of broadening the scope of the online copyright infringement scheme..

One of the key points of the Bill is that it now captures the online search engines, such as Google, Microsoft and Yahoo!, to be the subject of injunctions. While the injunction was only applicable to CSPs previously, it will be possible to require online search engines not to provide search results that link to the relevant online location once the amendment is enacted.

It will be significantly harder to illegally download free movies and other digital content in Australia in the future.

4. The Copyright Act is not a toothless tiger

The amendments made to the Copyright Act are not for merely a symbolic purpose, but have real effects. The first injunctions were granted by Nicholas J of the Federal Court in December 2016 in the case Roadshow Films Pty Ltd v Telstra Corporation Ltd (2016). After this happened, more and more applicants were made to block unlawful content providers.

According to the media release of Creative Content Australia, the Federal Court has ordered 65 piracy sites and over 378 domains to be blocked since the first site-blocking orders were made in December 2016.

No one should underestimate the use of the Copyright Act in protecting copyrights and creative content. Beyond compliance with the law, one should always respect copyright and the effort of the content providers. It’s the basic responsibility of a consumer to pay for the content that they would like to enjoy.

5. Consequence for pirating

Under the Copyright Act 1968, it is an offence to:

  • knowingly import, possess, sell, distribute or commercially deal with an infringing copy;
  • offer for sale infringing copies of computer programs;
  • transmit a computer program to enable it to be copied when received.

The potential penalties for breaching the law include fines of up to $117,000 for individuals and a possible term of imprisonment for up to five years.

Conclusion

Illegal content may seem convenient and economic in the short term, but it always comes with risks and potential consequences. Due to the advancement of technology, there are more options of legal content providers for us to choose from nowadays, and most of them offer a convenient and economic access to content.

If you are unsure about whether you are using the service of an unlawful content provider, you should consult a Copyright lawyer for clarification.

Have more questions? Contact a LawPath consultant on 1800 529 728 to learn more about customising legal documents and obtaining a fixed-fee quote from Australia’s largest legal marketplace.

Charlie Chan

Charlie is a Legal Intern at LawPath working with the content team. With an interest in corporate finance and commercial law, he is currently completing a Graduate Diploma in Australian Law at University of Technology Sydney.