Pirate Party Australia has received confirmation that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has rescinded confirmations of attendance for journalists[1][2] to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement briefing to be held in Sydney at 4pm on 30 October, stating that the meeting is “off-the-record”, and that journalists are not welcome[3].

DFAT has also removed all references to the event from their website. The original content from that page is still available on a website planning to protest during the briefing[4].

“This proves empirically that the Government has something to hide regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. There is absolutely no justification for barring any Australian from attending a briefing regarding a trade agreement, especially one as opaquely negotiated as the TPP,” said Brendan Molloy, Councillor of Pirate Party Australia.

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The Australian reported today that Attorney-General George Brandis has sent letters to copyright holders and ISPs to organise discussions on the best way to stop file sharing. The article suggests plans are afoot to create a censorship regime to block sites that enable file sharing[1].

Pirate Party Australia condemns any plan to install a censorship regime, whether it is to block ‘objectionable content’ (as attempted by the previous government) or to block access to websites that may include unauthorised copyrighted material.

“Yet again we are faced with a government that is an enemy of the Internet,” commented Simon Frew, President of Pirate Party Australia. “Previous Attorney-Generals organised secret meetings between ISPs and the copyright lobby, deliberately excluding consumers, and now history repeats. We demand that any consultation about the future of the Internet be conducted transparently and include competent and trusted representatives of the community, not just vested interests.”

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The Liberal Party has announced a broad Internet censorship policy less than 48 hours from the 2013 Federal Election, in order to shield the policy from detailed scrutiny[1].

“The Liberals’ decision to release a draconian Internet censorship policy this close to an election is utterly disgraceful,” said Brendan Molloy, lead NSW Senate candidate for the Pirate Party.

“The policy seems significantly broader than the defeated Labor policy, and is simply a waste of money. The mandatory installation of censorship software on devices seems to be very similar to a policy that China has previously implemented, a state renowned for its Internet censorship regime, and even they dumped it[2].”

“Opt-out filtering treats everyone like a child by default, and puts those who choose to opt-out from the Government-chosen list of acceptable websites on a list of deemed “undesirables” that can be later abused. This is a reprehensible policy and we will fight it to the death.”

“It’s simple: the Liberal policy will make censorship malware mandatory on your devices. That’s not okay,” he concluded.

The Pirate Party has released a pledge detailing the 16 policy areas they will focus on upon election to Parliament[3]. The third pledge focuses specifically around standing against any mandatory censorship regime.

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As the major parties descend into an ever increasingly infantile debate, Fairfax reporter Judith Ireland reports that copyright law is being engaged as a tool to suppress parody videos on YouTube in the Australian election campaign[1]. While this may appear trivial, it illustrates a larger, more serious issue.

“It’s an alarming development, however not surprising, that copyright is now being used as a tool for censorship in Australian politics. This is a perfect example of how copyright can be utilised to undermine free speech. While the subject here may be a relatively childish parody, if such abuse of copyright law were to become normalised it could impede legitimate political discourse and speech during a time-sensitive election campaign,” said Simon Frew, President of Pirate Party Australia.

Unfortunately it is very easy to use copyright as a censorship tool as the onus of proof is on the person being targeted with a takedown notice. In issues where time is of the essence, a takedown notice can be used to silence an opponent and by the time they have appealed and had their material reinstated, the opportunity to get a message heard can be missed. According to Google over one third of takedown notices are not valid copyright claims[2] and examples of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) being used for censorship are broad and many, be it doctors using it to silence negative reviews[3], businesses silencing competitors[4], through to it being used to remove video footage of war crimes[5].

“There are many issues with copyright and this is a clear illustration of one of them. The Pirate Party provides the most comprehensive intellectual property rights reform platform[6] of all parties in this election, and with the copyright monopoly threatening to step up the campaign after the election[7], those that value free culture, information and knowledge and reasonable intellectual property rights should consider a vote for the Pirate Party as insurance against draconian reforms proposed by industry bodies,” concluded Mr. Frew.

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Pirate Party Australia finds the guilty verdicts handed down in the case of prominent whistleblower, US Pfc Bradley Manning, to be deeply disturbing. Fortunately for the former US Army Private, Mr Manning was found not guilty of aiding the enemy, a bittersweet victory for both himself and journalistic integrity[1].

Mr Manning provided a wealth of classified material, including the infamous ‘Collateral Murder’ video portraying the murder of 11 unarmed civilians in Baghdad, including two Reuters’ journalists, in 2007[2]. The release of this video, among other material, elevated WikiLeaks from relative obscurity to one of the most well known and controversal journalistic organisations in the world today.

Pirate Party Australia is of the opinion that, in light of the war crimes exposed, the revelations of government corruption, and the evidence of a deliberate, systematic misinformation campaign targeted at the public, Bradley Manning should have been acquitted of all charges. Mr Manning has been held in conditions that have been publicly condemned by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture for three years before finally being sentenced. His treatment has been described by the Rapporteur as “cruel, inhuman and degrading” and prejudicial to the presumption of innocence[3].

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