Music industry facing unexpected windfall in Aussie site blocking case

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Music industry facing unexpected windfall in Aussie site blocking case

Site takedown in US could negate local battle.

The Australian arms of the world's biggest record companies could secure themselves an easy win against the operator of an alleged piracy site, after the US government forced Kickass Torrents offline.

The music industry took to the courts in April to get local access to the Kickass Torrents torrent directory blocked by Australia's internet service providers.

The application was held back a month later to await the outcome of a separate blocking case - where film studios are seeking to restrict access to The Pirate Bay, SolarMovie, Torrentz, Torrentound and IsoHunt file sharing websites - which would likely set a precedent for the music industry's case.

Universal Music, Sony Music and Warner Music are pushing for eight Kickass Torrents domains to be blocked in Australia. 

But yesterday the US government seized the domain names of the file-sharing site, forcing it offline.

The US is seeking the extradition of its alleged operator, Artem Vaulin, from Poland to face criminal charges of copyright infringement and money laundering. The US Department of Justice said Vaulin had been arrested in Poland.

Kickass Torrents is currently offline through its main domains, but a mirror version of the site has already been created.

The US DoJ claims the copyrighted material available on the site is worth over US$1 billion. It said the site receives 50 million unique visitors a month and annual revenue of as much as US$22.3 million (A$30 million). It claimed Kickass Torrents is the 69th most visited site on the web. 

Representatives of the music industry today appeared in a case management hearing with Telstra, Optus, TPG and Foxtel in the Sydney Federal Court.

The matter is currently set for a two-day hearing in late October, but the rights holders noted that a sustained shut-down of Kickass Torrents "might take the whole case away".

Such an outcome would bring an easy resolution to both the site blocking application and the current disagreement between the two parties on who should pay both the legal and compliance costs associated with the case.

The parties also currently disagree on whether ISPs should be required to implement a "block page" advising why a site has been taken down, and the conditions of a temporary suspension of a block.

However, there is agreement on the length of a site block: both parties say they are likely to jointly propose to the court a three-year duration.

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