Site blocking laws will stifle tech investment: Google

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Site blocking laws will stifle tech investment: Google

Investors scared away by copyright uncertainty.

Search giant Google has warned the Government that proposed site-blocking legislation, combined with existing copyright enforcement efforts, will damage Australia’s prospects as a site of digital investment.

Google made the comments in its submission to the Senate committee reviewing the proposed site-blocking bill - which would allow rights holders to apply for “online locations” deemed to be enabling copyright infringement to be blocked by carriers.

The tech giant repeated calls to expand the ‘safe harbour’ provision of the Copyright Act to protect digital service providers like itself that might inadvertently host or transmit copyrighted material that has been shared by its users.

It cited research suggesting that up to 80 percent of Australian investors are being deterred from putting their money into local digital content platforms because they are concerned that online providers could become targets of the new laws.

“The lack of a safe harbour for online service providers is ... a serious impediment to the  growth of Australia's digital economy,” Google argued.

Currently safe harbour protections only apply to telcos and other carriage providers.

“This discrepancy means that an online service provider in Australia is put in a position where it must assess whether it can carry out all of its online operations in Australia, whether it can rely on legal arguments/defences to justify its activities and whether it can operate under the uncertain rights resolution processes that providers outside the safe harbour must attempt to manage."

Google called on the Government to use the introduction of the site-blocking bill as an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of jurisdictions like the US and expand this legal protection.

It described such a move as “a critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to developing strategies to address piracy”.

Google said it remained apprehensive about the site-blocking legislation itself, arguing that industry self-regulation and direct co-operation between web providers and rights holders was a more effective approach that state intervention.

The web giant said it uses different methods to tackle piracy: it amended its search algorithm to downgrade the ranking of any sites that have received takedown notices.

Its related search terms function also steers users who may be looking for “free” downloads or “torrents” towards legitimate sources of content.

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