The Abbott Government has issued an ultimatum to internet service providers, telling them they will have a compulsory code to tackle piracy forced upon them if they fail to provide their own.
Attorney-General George Brandis and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull have written to industry leaders, telling them they have until April to develop an industry code.
In a statement, Senator Brandis said that the code would need to include a process to notify consumers when a copyright breach has occurred.
“Failing agreement within 120 days, the Government will impose binding arrangements either by an industry code prescribed by the Attorney-General… at the direction of the Minister for Communications,” he said.
Amendments will also be made to the Copyright Act to allow the government to block overseas websites hosting pirated content from Australian users, if affected rights holders obtain a court order.
The measures are set to be introduced in early 2015, and will be accessed after 18 months of operation.
‘Pirated content is likely to reappear as quickly as it can be taken down’
The Opposition has slammed the announcement, saying the Abbott government doesn’t understand the internet or its users.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus and Shadow Communications Minister Jason Clare accused the government of “passing the buck” to the industry.
“The Government’s only concrete decision is to introduce legislation providing for overseas websites facilitating copyright infringement to be blocked in Australia by court order,” they stated.
“Site-blocking is unlikely to be an effective strategy for dealing with online piracy. Pirated content is likely to reappear as quickly as it can be taken down.”
'This is nothing more than an internet filter'
The move has also been deemed as a "threat to free speech" by the Institute of Public Affairs.
The IPA's Senior Fellow Chris Berg said the ability to block sites would backfire due to a lack of technical knowledge, citing the "hundreds of thousands of websites" accidently blocked by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission previously.
"This is nothing more than an internet filter, of the sort which the Coalition proudly opposed when it was proposed by the Rudd and Gillard governments," he said.
"... Experience has shown us that Australian governments cannot be trusted to block only the sites they intend to block."