Copyright troll companies have been operating at the forefront of a major new technology to battle online piracy.
Trolls use automated software called IPO to take control of a website, steal files and then post them online to try to get people to pay for the pirated content.
The technology has also been used to steal millions of dollars in cash and goods from Australian shoppers and to attack other online businesses.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is calling on internet service providers to block IPO services and force them to block automated software that threatens their business models.
The competition watchdog said the companies that run the technology, which it described as ‘infringing software’, had created a new industry, called ‘infotroll’, in which they compete with each other for customers.
IPO technology was first introduced in 2014 to help people download and stream videos on websites such as YouTube, and to help them find and pay for music, movies and other content.
In an effort to keep the technology from being used for copyright infringement, Australian authorities had blocked IPO providers from accessing the internet, including in Victoria.
But the government has now introduced new rules which require ISPs to block the service for a maximum of a year if they have a ‘significant proportion’ of their customers using IPO technology.
And the Federal Government is taking steps to make sure ISPs can’t block the technology even if they don’t want to.
A spokesman for the Federal Trade Commission said it was not commenting on the decision.
Internet service providers are already required to block access to copyright infringing websites but there are also a number of options to prevent them from using IPOs, including blocking access to IPO-generated content.
Internet service provider iiNet has said it would block the IPO software from its network if it had any ‘significant’ number of users using it, and has asked customers to check their settings on the company’s website to see if it is blocking the software.
In a statement, iiNet said it has already removed the IPOs and said the software it uses to generate revenue from IPOs is safe.
A spokeswoman for iiNet, who declined to provide any details about how many customers use the software, said the company has no plans to block or disable the software from their networks.
Last month, the Federal Court found the Federal government had failed to adequately protect Australians against copyright trolls.
‘An industry that threatens Australian consumers’The Federal Government’s approach to dealing with copyright trolls, which includes forcing ISPs to ‘block’ the technology used by copyright trolls and asking them to report any alleged copyright infringements, has been criticised by consumer groups and a leading lawyer.
Internet expert and commentator, Andrew Robb, told the ABC that the Federal Labor government had lost the public debate about what constitutes a threat to Australian consumers.
“They have given up the fight to protect the interests of Australian consumers, the interest of the public, against a significant number of IPO companies,” Mr Robb said.
“I think it’s time for them to wake up and admit that this is an industry that is undermining our democracy, is undermining the Australian economy and is threatening Australian consumers.”
Mr Robb said the Federal Opposition was now calling on Labor to do more to protect Australians from copyright trolls in a bid to protect Australian businesses.
“The Government’s new rules will prevent a significant proportion of Australian businesses from being able to compete with the IP companies that are trying to undermine our economy and to do so with impunity,” he said.