Websites offering access to scripts with subtitle files that can be combined with movies and TV shows are now facing possible piracy blocks in Australia, with claims that 151 domains facilitate the infringement of literary works.
The case is being brought by Roadshow Films alongside the world’s largest producers of Chinese media content, TVBO Productions and Television Broadcasts (TVB), and Madman Entertainment, which is the exclusive licensee of Japanese anime content.
“People have recorded from the motion pictures or the programs — the video content — then translated the words into different languages, and then those websites make available files that contain the subtitles in those languages,” counsel for Roadshow explained.
“Users can download those and then using video programs can combine those with the [films] … they can combine the two and watch them.”
Justice Nicholas noted that as it is a new angle to mandating website blocks under Australia’s piracy laws, he will “want to look at that closely”, and has requested to know what harm the copyright owners are suffering following the alleged infringement of the scripts.
While no ISPs showed up for the case management hearing on Thursday, after last year establishing the procedure of not being present during piracy site-blocking trials, counsel for Roadshow said Vodafone — a new party to any piracy proceedings, as it only just launched fixed-line broadband services at the end of last year across the NBN — intends to file submitting appearances.
The case is scheduled for a hearing on September 7.
Another successful Federal Court case by Roadshow in April had resulted in Australia’s internet service providers being ordered to block 16 online locations of alleged piracy websites.
In that case, Justice Nicholas approved the block of domain names being used by smart TV boxes to access alleged copyright-infringing streaming services via apps. Roadshow had said it is willing to continue paying for the cost of piracy website blocks because it is in the “public interest”.
TVBO/TVB has similarly been fighting in court against smart TV boxes and how they use apps linked to app marketplaces to stream copyright-infringing content since December last year, with the case yet to be decided.
The most recent piracy block came in June, when the Federal Court ordered Australia’s internet service providers to block another swathe of allegedly illegal torrenting and streaming websites, after just one day after the one-hour hearing.
That hearing had seen counsel for Foxtel present evidence against 11 to 15 torrent websites and 10 streaming sites, including streaming site HDO and torrenting sites ETTV and Torrents.me, as well as a new version of the Pirate Bay, which was blocked years ago under a previous Foxtel case.
Previous site-blocking hearings saw content owners including Foxtel successfully seek blocks against Kickass Torrents, and more than 200 additional alleged piracy sites.
Under the initial ruling, rights holders are to pay a AU$50 fee per domain they want to block, with the websites to be blocked within 15 business days.
Website blocking was legislated under the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Act, which passed both houses of Parliament in mid-2015 and allows rights holders to obtain a court order to block websites hosted overseas that are deemed to exist for the primary purpose of infringing or facilitating infringement of copyright under Section 115A.
The Australian government then opened consultation on the piracy site-blocking laws in mid February, with the Department of Communications seeking feedback on the effectiveness and efficiency of the mechanism, whether the application process and injunctions are operating well, and whether any amendments are required.
According to the Department of Communications, there has been a “correlating” reduction in copyright infringement since the legislation was passed — although this also coincides with the launch of streaming services in Australia, as noted by a previous report by the department.