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  1. In a submission to the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015, the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network has addressed site blocking and potential threats to VPN use. While the former could descend into an expensive consumer-funded game of whac-a-mole, clarification is required to remove potential threats to VPNs. After Attorney-General George Brandis and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull asked the Australian Cabinet to approve the development of a new legal mechanism allowing rightsholders to obtain site-blocking injunctions, legislation was introduced to parliament last month. What followed is a still-current six-week consultation period for additional submissions, with various groups invited to voice their opinions and concerns. While the site-blocking elements of the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015 are likely to please rightsholders, concerns remain that not only will the legislation fail to achieve its aims, but may also have unintended consequences that could stifle consumer choice. In its submission the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), the body that represents the interests of consumers on communications issues including broadband and emerging Internet services, three key issues are raised – VPN use, efficacy and cost of blocking, plus consumer interests. The VPN problem ACCAN is concerned over some of the wording employed in the amendments. Instead of referencing “website blockingâ€, the legislation speaks about “online locationsâ€. While this appears to be an effort to future-proof the Bill, it also has the potential for additional consequences should rightsholders decide to exploit the ambiguity. “Our first concern relates to the scope of activities that may be picked up by an interpretation of an ‘online location’ which ‘facilitates an infringement’ of copyright,†ACCAN writes. “Without clear legal precedent, there is ambiguity under the Copyright Act about what constitutes infringement in relation to the use of a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to gain access to geo-blocked products and services. If this ambiguity is not cleared up, this amendment may have the unintended consequence of blocking these services and in turn harm competition and consumer choice.†And confusion does exist. On his website Minister for Communications Malcolm Turnbull says that the Copyright Act does not make it illegal to use a VPN to access overseas content. On the other hand, the Australian Copyright Council believes that using a VPN to download content licensed overseas is “likely to be an infringement of copyright in Australia.†While it was previously reported that the Bill had been delayed due to modifications aimed at protecting VPN-like services, ACCAN says that it would prefer clarity on the matter. “While this ambiguity exists there is a risk that rights holders will attempt to use this injunctive power to block VPN websites and limit consumer access to paid content overseas,†the group writes. And the threat is real. As reported last week, New Zealand based media companies report that they are on the verge of suing local ISPs who provide VPN services designed to unlock overseas content. Avoiding the same thing Down Under is a priority for ACCAN. Protecting the public interest In most countries where rightsholders have demanded site blocking on copyright grounds, ISPs have refused to block voluntarily and have insisted on a court order. This has resulted in processes where movie and recording industry companies become the plaintiffs and ISPs the defendants. The sites themselves aren’t involved in the process, and neither are their users. “[We] remain concerned that a judge in an ex parte hearing will not have the requisite evidence at hand to weigh the public interest against those of rights holders,†ACCAN writes. “The amendment creates no right for legitimate users of a site to present evidence on any adverse consequences of an injunction. There should be a presumption in the Bill in favor of allowing parties to become interveners or amicus curiae in the context of these injunction applications.†Efficacy and costs of blocking Like many other similarly focused groups, ACCAN is concerned that not only will site / online location blocking prove ineffective when it comes to stopping infringement, but the bill for the exercise will ultimately fall at the feet of the consumer. Citing Dutch studies which found that blocking The Pirate Bay enjoyed only short-lived success, ACCAN voices concerns that once one site is blocked, users will simply migrate elsewhere. “This research confirmed the findings in other studies which found that legal action against file sharing often has an immediate effect, but this typically fades out after a period of six months as new sources for pirated content emerge. ACCAN’s concern is that this website blocking bill may devolve into an expensive game of ‘whack-a-mole’, which consumers will end up paying for through higher internet bills,†the group writes. Similar fears over consumers picking up costs for online infringement enforcement have been voiced across Europe and in the United States, but in no cases has that caused a court to deny rightsholders the opportunity to protect their copyrights. It is guaranteed that one way or another – via their Internet bill or through the cost of media – Aussies will eventually pay for the proposed enforcement measures The Bill is currently under review by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee, with a report due in a little under a month. https://torrentfreak.com/vpn-and-site-blocking-attacked-by-consumer-group-150420/
  2. Kim Dotcom is dealing with a multi-pronged attack on his assets. While the governments of both the U.S. and New Zealand work to keep already seized assets frozen, a High Court judge has just ordered the millionaire to reveal where all of his remaining assets are. Meanwhile, all U.S. civil action has been frozen until 2015. While there are plenty of people who would like to portray Kim Dotcom as the biggest copyright offender the world has ever seen, there are many who look beyond that towards his larger than life persona and playboy-style riches. His lifestyle, one in which he inhabits a huge and luxurious mansion while traveling the country in helicopters, is made all the more interesting by the fact that authorities in the United States, New Zealand and Hong Kong attempted to seize all of Dotcom’s assets back in 2012. While they succeeded in locking up millions, it’s evident that Dotcom has assets elsewhere and is currently disposing of them. That’s the argument being put forth by Dotcom foes 20th Century Fox, Disney, Paramount, Universal, Columbia Pictures and Warner Bros who have not only initiated legal action in the United States, but have also done so in New Zealand. They’re keeping an eye on Dotcom’s spending to ensure there’s something left for them should they prevail in their legal action. In a new judgment out today, Justice Patricia Courtney said there is indeed evidence to suggest that Dotcom had been giving “very substantial payments†to his fledgling “Internet Party†political party. His offer to pay a $5m bounty to a whistle-blower was also noted. As a result, Judge Courtney concluded that there is “a danger that any judgment obtained by the applicants will go unsatisfied, partly or wholly, as a result of Mr Dotcom disposing of assets.†In an effort to put the brakes on that possibility, the Judge gave Dotcom until August 20 to reveal all of his assets “wherever they are located†and to identify “the nature of his interest in them.†However, speaking with RadioNZ, Dotcom said any money he’s spending now has been made since the mansion raids of 2012. “The assets that they are talking about now are new assets that were created because of my entrepreneurial skill after the raid. So they’re trying to attack assets that have nothing to do with MegaUpload or anything that I have run previously as business operations,†Dotcom said. However, the $11.8 million in assets already subjected to a criminal restraining order following the raid in New Zealand are also under attack. In April the High Court saidDotcom could have his assets returned. That decision was quickly appealed by the Crown and the case was heard at the Court of Appeal today. A lawyer for the police told the Court that although the assets are being held under a criminal restraining order in New Zealand, the Court did not need to take into account whether the cases being pursued in the United States against Dotcom were criminal or civil in nature. The judges reserved their decision on whether the freeze on Dotcom’s assets should continue for another year in addition to the two years plus that have already passed. Meanwhile, over in the United States, Dotcom lawyer Ira Rothken announced that the US Federal Court had granted a motion to stay all civil copyright litigation against his client until April 1, 2015. http://torrentfreak.com/kim-dotcoms-assets-attacked-from-multiple-directions-140730/