By Colin Packham
SYDNEY (Reuters) - More than 60 websites devoted to helping people illegally download films and television shows will be blocked in Australia, the country's Federal Court ruled on Thursday, in a landmark victory for content providers.
News Corp's local cable TV company Foxtel and cinema owner Village Roadshow Ltd won the case, which requires internet service providers such as Telstra Corporation Limited, Optus [STELO.UL] and TPG to block access to more than 60 file-sharing websites, widely used to download popular TV shows such as Game of Thrones.
The ruling - the first under the country's recently amended copyright laws - will stem illegal downloads in a country where more than a third of adults admit to stealing content online, potentially boosting demand for services such as Foxtel and Netflix Inc.
"This judgment is a major step in both directly combating piracy and educating the public that accessing content through these sites is not OK, in fact it is theft," said Foxtel chief executive Peter Tonagh.
Despite its relatively small population, Australia is the world's second highest perpetrator of illegal downloads, a 2015 report by global accounting firm EY found, costing content providers millions of dollars in lost revenue.
Until now, Australian courts have been among the least intrusive when it comes to cracking down on Web piracy, including refusing to let movie producers bill people it suspects of stealing their content.
But after Australia's parliament last year amended a law to crack down on illegal downloads, Foxtel and Village Roadshow applied to the Federal Court to demand the file-sharing websites, such as Pirate Bay, Torrentz, TorrentHound and five dozen other sites be blocked.
"The content will not be blocked, it just won't be available on these pirate websites," said Michael Fraser, a professor of law at the University of Technology Sydney and chairman of the Australian Copyright Council.
Internet service providers have 15 days to comply with the ruling.
(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Michael Perry)