Today is a dark day for Australians and the Internet as the Labor Party caucus approves data retention and the Coalition prepares to introduce misguided new legislation aimed at combatting online copyright infringement. To encourage Australians to join us in fighting back, the Pirate Party is offering pay-what-you-want memberships with no minimum amount at http://pirateparty.org.au/join
Pirate Party Deputy President Simon Frew said: “The Government and the Opposition have effectively declared war on the Internet and war on our privacy. The Labor Party has rolled over on data retention, meaning all Australians will be subjected to mass surveillance until this appalling legislation is repealed.
“At the same time, legislation to give copyright holders an easy mechanism to get websites blocked will mean we are subjected to a censorship regime. The Government has opted for a long and pointless game of whack-a-mole — as soon as a site is blocked it will pop up in several new places and copyright infringement will continue.
The Pirate Party is bewildered that Hotline Miami 2 is being refused classification and is therefore effectively banned from the Australian retail market. 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. 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.
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. 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.
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.
“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.
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. 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.
The Pirate Party arranged and crowdfunded a certified translation of the case involving two ISPs, Ziggo and XS4All, and Dutch anti-piracy association BREIN. 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 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.
In response to the Senate’s passing of the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014 last Thursday, the Pirate Party has updated its policies to specifically oppose the Bill and support its repeal in the likely case where the lower house also approves it in the coming days.
The Bill makes major amendments to the ASIO Act, giving ASIO the ability to access, modify, copy and delete information on computers. ASIO may also be able to apply for a computer access warrant broad enough to cover every device on the Internet at once. Other amendments will introduce tough sentences for journalists and whistleblowers who report or disclose sensitive information, even if it is in the public interest.
The legislation also grants blanket immunity from prosecution for many illegal acts undertaken as necessary under a “special intelligence operation”, effectively granting ASIO unprecedented powers without the necessary checks and balances required by a legitimate liberal democracy.
Party President Brendan Molloy commented: “Labor has farcically waved through some of the most onerous legislation of the last decade with little more than a rubber stamp, as the Liberal Party whips up yet another fear-based storm of ‘national unity’ with insufficient evidential basis. This legislation criminalises journalism and whistleblowing, regardless of the public interest, while effectively granting ASIO agents the power to do anything they please.