The Pirate Party is concerned that Friday’s decision of the Full Federal Court to uphold a patent over the BRCA1 breast cancer gene[1] poses an enormous threat to the treatment of breast cancer and future illnesses. Myriad Genetics’ patent is for the isolated BRCA1 gene, and was upheld on the basis that the isolated gene does not exist in isolated form naturally.

Pirate Party President, Brendan Molloy, commented: “The decision of the Court is disturbing to say the least. This is not an invention or a process — it is naturally occuring genetic material. A private company should not be able to own rights over genetic material found within our bodies.

“This will surely hamper future research into breast cancer, and also other health problems if more patents are granted on isolated genes. This is leaving the door wide open for extortionate licence fees, driving up the costs of further research and treatment.

“Now is the time for legislative intervention to make it clear that patents on isolated genetic material that is removed from its natural state should not be patentable. Monopolies should not be granted where the result of that monopoly is a public health risk.

“Like mathematical formulas, genes should not be patentable. No exceptions.”

The Pirate Party is supportive of any decision to appeal this further to the High Court. The Pirate Party’s patent policy opposes patents on isolated genetic material and proposes extensive patent reform to prevent detrimental effects on public health and innovation[2].

[1] http://www.judgments.fedcourt.gov.au/judgments/Judgments/fca/full/2014/2014fcafc0115
[2] http://pirateparty.org.au/wiki/Policies/Patents

The Pirate Party made a lengthy submission to the Attorney-General’s Department last Friday, responding to the Department’s “Online Copyright Infringement” discussion paper[1]. The submission highlighted a number of flaws with the discussion paper, such as reliance upon studies commissioned by copyright lobbyists[2], and also drew attention to the lack of government action on recommendations that could reduce online copyright infringement by improving prices and availability of digital content in Australia[3].

It also highlighted the lack of reliable and independent empirical evidence for the discussion paper’s proposals, and criticised attempts by copyright lobbyists to compare copyright infringement with terrorism or the distribution of child sexual abuse materials[4]. The discussion paper proposes creating obligations for Internet service providers to cooperate with copyright holders, which may mean implementing a graduated response or “three strikes” scheme where Internet users are sent letters if accused of infringing copyright. It also proposes allowing copyright holders to seek injunctions requiring ISPs to block access to websites.

Mozart Olbrycht-Palmer, principal author of the Pirate Party’s submission, said: “The Government decided to focus its attention on changing consumer behaviour and our submission explains at great length why that approach just won’t work. If online copyright infringement is truly out of control, copyright holders only have themselves to blame. The reality is that increasing access and affordability of content will reduce online copyright infringement: just look at Steam, Netflix and Spotify. The discussion paper acknowledges this but its proposals are focused in entirely the wrong area.

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The Pirate Party is critical of the Government’s secrecy surrounding its most recent discussion paper on data retention. While the public is yet to see a formal proposal, telecommunications providers were given confidential advanced copies last Friday[1].

Pirate Party President Brendan Molloy commented: “No reason has been given for why the public must remain in the dark. This is a fundamentally undemocratic approach that excludes the major stakeholder — the Australian public. Botched media interviews and confused, conflicting statements over the past weeks have not provided any reassurance to Australians that the Government is competent enough to understand the enormous implications data retention has for our privacy. This is a highly controversial policy, and one that has already been rejected in the European Union precisely because it threatens privacy to such an unreasonable degree[2]. It is a complex area that needs great consideration and maximum public participation.

“No justifiable reason to store information that reveals individuals’ locations has been provided, let alone allowing access without a warrant. The Pirate Party’s position has been and continues to be that the threshold for access to stored data under existing arrangements is already too low, and must require a warrant. This extends to any further proposals.

“It also seems, despite the Attorney-General dismissing the suggestion, that the storage of information relating to download volumes is for the benefit of the copyright lobby. This was not on the cards previously, and we cannot fathom what use this information would be to the investigation of terrorism and other serious crimes.

“To mandate the retention of such vast quantities of information on all Australians is not a proportional nor necessary response to the perceived threats. The Attorney-General must immediately release this document in full, as well as future documents. Australians at large are the biggest stakeholders in these proposals, and have the right to be informed.”

[1] http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/digital-life-news/data-retention-discussion-shrouded-in-secrecy-20140826-108fdr.html
[2] http://curia.europa.eu/jcms/upload/docs/application/pdf/2014-04/cp140054en.pdf

The Pirate Party denounces any attempts to include certification provisions in the highly secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP). The United States, one of twelve negotiating nations including Australia, may be given the power to opt-out of the Agreement if countries do not implement the TPP according to the standards of the United States Trade Representative. This has been used by the United States to pressure other countries into adopting its interpretation of trade agreements[1].

These provisions give an inordinate amount of leverage to the US Government to pressure treaty partners, such as Australia, to alter and adopt laws that go beyond the negotiated text of the treaty. In practice this could result in a situation where the US Government and its advisors are approving, or even drafting, Australian laws to ensure they comply with the interests and expectations of the United States.

Brendan Molloy, President of the Pirate Party, commented: “This is an egregious overreach. I daresay that any Australian government that signs such an unbalanced agreement, which puts such an unequal share of power in the hands of a foreign entity, is guilty of betraying the interests of the Australian people. A partnership where all parties do not have equal power is not a partnership. By signing such a fundamentally unbalanced agreement, Australia would be granting the US significant control of our sovereignty, making us effectively a vassal of the United States.

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In response to the recent announcement that the Government will pursue a mandatory two-year data retention regime in Australia, Electronic Frontiers Australia and GetUp! have launched a petition opposing these plans[1]. The Pirate Party, which had a similar petition tabled in the Senate in February 2013[2], is fully supportive of the initiative and encourages all Australians concerned about their privacy and incursions into their right to free expression to sign it.

The petition is available at https://www.getup.org.au/campaigns/privacy/mandatory-data-retention-efa–2/sign-the-petition

“Metadata is everything and nothing if you believe what has been unthinkingly blurted by each Government minister given the opportunity to ramble aimlessly on a topic they have no understanding of[3][4],” said Brendan Molloy, President of the Pirate Party. “What is clear is that there are far-reaching, negative consequences of the introduction of any data retention regime and we are wholeheartedly against their introduction.

“Please sign this petition to show that Australians are firmly against data retention measures that would not only be ineffective at combatting crime but would also unnecessarily and disproportionately impact on our civil rights to privacy and free expression. Australians have the right not to be treated as criminals by default. We’ve fought it before, we’ll fight it again, and we’ll win.”

The significant majority (98.9% by some estimates[5][6]) of submissions made to the National Security Inquiry in 2012-13 were against the introduction of a data retention regime.

It is unclear just what data will be collected and stored under the retention regime, however it appears from comments made by the Attorney-General that it will extend as far as the websites that Internet users visit. No legislation has been proposed, making it incredibly difficult to critique the proposals in detail.

[1] https://www.getup.org.au/campaigns/privacy/mandatory-data-retention-efa–2/sign-the-petition
[2] http://pirateparty.org.au/2013/02/26/data-retention-goes-back-underground-as-campaign-turns-up-the-heat/
[3] http://www.skynews.com.au/video/program_agenda/2014/08/06/agenda-security-laws-may-collect-metadata.html
[4] https://soundcloud.com/something-wonky/george-brandis-dubstep (necessary listening for all true masochists)
[5] http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/sundayextra/905-segment/5655718
[6] http://scott-ludlam.greensmps.org.au/content/motions/motion-data-retention