In a bid to garner support for data retention legislation, Tony Abbott announced that the scheme is vital in combating child abuse and other crimes. “Metadata and its retention is more important than ever if we are going to be able to track what criminals are doing,” said Mr. Abbott.

“This panicked grab for legitimacy highlights the government’s failure to understand the key flaws in the legislation, despite being made aware of them multiple times[1]. Making false claims that the scheme will greatly benefit the fight against child abuse does a disservice to the young victims of sexual abuse, and Australian society as a whole,” said Fletcher Boyd, Deputy Secretary of the Pirate Party.

The Coalition government has continually ignored calls for more protection in the scheme since right now there are no protections in place for everyday Australians. Forced two year metadata retention with no limits on use will inevitably violate the privacy of countless citizens. While Mr. Abbott claims to be fighting against child abuse, his legislation ignores the fact that the data collected could also be used in a wide variety of other cases. From perpetrating domestic violence to stifling the press, the grave implications of this legislation have been ignored.

On top of this, Mr. Abbott expects Australians to foot the bill for his plan. Telcos have estimated the costs of such a scheme will be upwards of $500m[2], a surveillance tax that will be passed on to consumers. The lack of consideration of data security in the bill will endanger private data even further. The chance of accessing such a large amount of data will be a target on the back of Australian ISPs. When coupled with the massive cost of storage, it’s likely that ISPs will turn to cheaper offshore solutions, leaving Australians further exposed and their data being outsourced to offshore entities.

In Pirate Party Australia’s submission to the data retention inquiry[3], Mozart Olbrycht-Palmer wrote, “Criminals (or potential criminals) have already mitigated any such surveillance through the use of encrypted, proxy and anonymizing services, thereby severely reducing the efficacy of data retention. Some criminals will be caught at the lower end of the scale, but they would have likely been caught anyway. Including everyone with a phone or Internet connection in a database of suspicion does not enhance civil and political relationships and responsibilities.”

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The Pirate Party is bewildered that Hotline Miami 2 is being refused classification and is therefore effectively banned from the Australian retail market[1]. While the Pirate Party does not endorse sexual violence, it is critical of the double standard by which video games are treated as inherently different to other mediums. It is unacceptable and unnecessarily paternalistic to deny adults access to content that would be permitted in other mediums.

With the introduction of an adult rating (R18+) for video games at the beginning of 2013 the community expected a sensible approach to the classification of games. Previously the highest classification level available for games was MA15+, and, due to the adult nature of some games, those that exceeded the MA15+ guidelines were banned from sale in Australia. Unfortunately games continue to be judged by a stricter standard and a number of games have been refused classification since then. Today we see yet another example with the banning of Hotline Miami 2.

“The Australian Classifications Board has a long history of banning films, video games and generally treating Australian adults as children,” commented Simon Frew, Deputy President of the Pirate Party. “There have been a number of films that have been banned over the last decade or so, but video games seem to attract undue attention from the censors. Games like Hotline Miami 2 are designed specifically for adults and adults should be allowed to choose the content they consume.”

The new classification scheme for video games was firmly seated in an acceptance of the fact that gaming now crosses all demographic borders and there are far more mature adults playing than there are impressionable children[2]. The new scheme fails to adequately accommodate the wide range of content available for the varying consumer tastes driving industry demand, and instead places a blanket ban on the legal sale within Australia of major international game titles.

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As the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) convenes its hearings today in the wake of the Sydney hostage crisis, the Pirate Party urges that this tragedy not be used to hastily legislate mandatory data retention. The Pirate Party, while acknowledging and praising the work of NSW Police in resolving the situation, is deeply concerned about the effectiveness of existing investigative and monitoring procedures.

“We must be cautious not to allow this tragedy to cover the passing of legislation that disrupts fundamental rights and freedoms,” commented Brendan Molloy, President of the Pirate Party. “To date, all incidents that could have been preempted have been with existing police powers. Incidents like the Sydney Hostage Crisis would not be preempted with data retention.”

“A significant question that needs to be answered is how a person such as the perpetrator, Man Haron Monis, who was known[1][2][3] to be a potential threat to the community was not under targeted surveillance, as there are already sufficient powers for this purpose. Our law enforcement and intelligence agencies seem too caught up in pushing for more powers and tools, including data retention, rather than responsibly and effectively using the powers they already have.”

“It is vital that this tragedy is not used to needlessly take away the rights and freedoms so basic to our democracy. We urge the Committee on Intelligence and Security to seriously consider the reality that ‘lone actor’ attacks are conducted by people who will not be detected through data retention, and that terrorist organisations know this and are using it to their advantage[4].”

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The Australian Government today announced it is going ahead with an ineffective “strategy” to “tackle” online copyright infringement, which puts a gun to the head of ISPs by requiring undue compromise with the copyright industry or face legislative regulation[1]. Despite being demonstrably futile, the Government will be pursuing both a notification scheme and court-ordered website blockades. The Pirate Party opposed both as neither will reduce infringement in Australia and do not address the more pressing issues of accessibility and affordability, instead targeting normal human behaviour[2].

It appears copyright holders will be able to request that an Internet service provider (ISP) sends an educational notice to an alleged infringer, with no actual penalty attached. Copyright holders will also be able to seek an injunction that requires ISPs to block access to websites that allegedly infringe copyright or facilitate infringement. Groups including “wifi providers” and “libraries” are also unreasonably expected to act as “copyright cops” according to an FAQ on the Minister for Communication’s website[3].

“This proposal is effectively the beginning of an Australian version of the failed US Stop Online Piracy Act. Notification schemes, graduated response schemes and website blocking do not work. They are costly, ineffective and disproportioned, as evidenced by academia and decisions of foreign courts. Fighting the Internet itself as opposed to solving the lack of convenient and affordable access does not work, nor does propping up business models that rely upon the control of content consumption in the digital environment,” commented Brendan Molloy, President of the Pirate Party.

These points have been refuted strongly by the Pirate Party and others in their submissions on the Government’s Online Copyright Infringement discussion paper. The efficacy of blocking websites was examined in a Dutch Court of Appeals case earlier this year, where the Court found there was insufficient evidence that blocking the Pirate Bay was effective at reducing copyright infringement and ordered that the blockade could be lifted. The Pirate Party arranged a translation of the judgment, which is available from the Pirate Party’s website[4].

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Proposals to allow copyright holders to seek injunctions that require Internet service providers (ISPs) to block subscribers’ access to allegedly infringing websites will allegedly be presented to the Federal Cabinet today[1]. Coincidentally, the Pirate Party is pleased to publish its recently-commissioned translation of a Dutch Court of Appeals case (ECLI:NL:GHDHA:2014:88) that casts significant doubt on the efficacy of blocking websites[2].

The Pirate Party arranged and crowdfunded a certified translation of the case involving two ISPs, Ziggo and XS4All, and Dutch anti-piracy association BREIN[3]. The translation was carried out by Sydney translation service Linguistico and the Pirate Party has published the translation under the Creative Commons Zero licence, allowing unrestricted use.

“Today the Pirate Party has demonstrated that it is willing to put its money where its mouth is and contribute to the commons. This translation is a significant piece of evidence that can be used to campaign against Internet censorship,” said Brendan Molloy, President of the Pirate Party.

“What this judgment makes exceedingly clear is that website blocking is ineffective and disproportionate for the many reasons we outlined in our submission[4] on the Government’s Online Copyright Infringement discussion paper.”

Many submissions to the inquiry, including the Pirate Party’s, argued that the discussion paper attempted to solve a problem that does not exist, while acknowledging yet overlooking the major issue of access to content.

“What is known to solve the ‘piracy problem’ is providing consumers with convenient, timely and affordable access to the content they wish to acquire, and these alleged proposals will regress Australian copyright, not progress it,” commented Mr Molloy. “Another look at the recommendations of the ALRC ‘Copyright and the digital economy’ review certainly wouldn’t go astray.”

The Pirate Party thanks all of the supporters who contributed to the crowdfunding campaign that made this important translation possible.

[1] http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/digital-life-news/no-harsh-penalties-for-illicit-downloaders-under-copyright-reform-20141208-122rmj.html
[2] http://pirateparty.org.au/media/documents/ECLI_NL_GHDHA_2014_88_ENG_Ziggo_v_BREIN.pdf
[3] http://www.pozible.com/project/185899
[4] http://pirateparty.org.au/media/submissions/PPAU_2014_AGD_Online_Copyright_Infringement_DP.pdf