The Australian Government has introduced new laws to block websites at an internet service provider (ISP) level if they have the primary purposes of infringing or facilitating the infringement of copyright. On June 22 the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015 was passed in parliament, amending the Copyright Act to introduce the new provisions.

In addition to the obvious targets such as The Pirate Bay and other bittorrent websites, there is a significant concern that the new laws would block Virtual Private Networks (VPN). In Australia, VPN demand has increased alongside the introduction of the recent Netflix service which is partially attributable to Australian customers flaunting geographic restrictions to obtain the same content as their US counterparts. VPNs also have numerous legitimate purposes and are critical to many businesses which transmit sensitive information or wish to preserve privacy.

The Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull tried to quell the concern earlier in the discussions by making it extra clear that VPN use would not be a problem under the legislation. Despite this, a specific exemption for VPN providers was rejected, leaving scope in the future for VPNs meeting the requisite test under the Act to be blocked.

Many tech-savvy experts remain unconvinced of the efficacy of the legislation citing previous examples of website blocking resulting in dozens of mirror sites popping up that offer the same content. There are also masking services, such as the one The Pirate Bay is currently using, which makes its website impossible to block for the majority of ISPs. Lastly, users can turn to a proxy website which, similarly to VPNs, disguises the location of the user to another part of the world. We will keep you updated on any new developments.