Pirate Party Australia is appalled by the news that the Abbott Government is allegedly considering proposals to introduce legislation to institute Internet censorship and a graduated response (“three-strikes”) regime in an ill-conceived attempt to curb the incidence of unlawful file-sharing[1].

“There is no public support for this proposed legislation,” commented Simon Frew, President of Pirate Party Australia. “Why would the public support blocking of one of the few means of access to content in this broken digital economy?

“Prior to the election this wasn’t even being discussed. However, the Government is bringing the proposal back to the table following donations of more than $300,000 from Village Roadshow in the last financial year[2]. It has also come to light that a key industry lobbyist has had privileged access to staff at the Attorney-General’s Department[3]. This may be coincidence, but it looks suspicious that file-sharing is now prominent on the Government’s agenda, while there has been no observed movement on recommendations from the Australian Law Reform Commission regarding genuinely important areas of copyright reform.”

In January this year, the Netherlands Court of Appeal in the Hague ruled that blockades of the Pirate Bay were ineffective and easy to circumvent, and that ISPs were no longer required to block access to the popular torrent site[4]. In addition, studies in Australia and around the world have cast doubt on the efficacy of graduated response regimes, with a paper from Rebecca Giblin of Monash University’s Faculty of Law concluding that there is “little to no evidence” graduated responses deter or reduce copyright infringement[5][6]. Despite similar legislation being introduced in a number of countries to date, no evidence has emerged that these have resulted in lowering file-sharing behaviour, nor do they offer any significant protections for content providers.

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Pirate Party Australia opposes the push from Attorney-General George Brandis to coerce Internet service providers into becoming copyright police[1]. Threats to take legislative action to institute a graduated response (“three strikes”) regime and website blocking will be ineffective to curb illegal file-sharing of copyrighted material and are an unnecessary, reactionary measure.

“Creating a censorship regime and cutting people off from the Internet are non-solutions which are attempting to solve a problem that does not exist,” said Simon Frew, President of Pirate Party Australia. “Censorship is overkill, and graduated response regimes have been shown to be totally ineffective in practice — last year France dropped its controversial HADOPI scheme, and a recent study by Rebecca Giblin from Monash University’s Faculty of Law indicates that graduated responses are neither successful or effective, and that the future of such schemes should be reconsidered[2]. For the Attorney-General to suggest this as a way forward is absurd and flies in the face of available evidence, as per usual.

“In his opening address at the Australian Digital Alliance Forum this February the Attorney-General cited the Great Gatsby as an example of why we need to protect the Australian film industry from file-sharing[3]. He claimed that piracy is putting content creation at risk. If this were the case, the Great Gatsby would not have made more than double its production budget at the box office alone[4]. The film industry does not appear to be suffering from file-sharing, despite their claims, considering 2013 was the biggest year for box office takings in history, and broke the record which was set only the previous year[5].”

Evidence suggests a large proportion of illegal file-sharing is actually driven by lack of access in markets like Australia, and that it is possible to compete against piracy if you’re willing to adapt your business models[6]. Consumers who cannot access content in a timely, affordable and convenient manner are more likely to turn to piracy as an alternative. Panellists at the Australian Digital Alliance Forum representing Google, Ericsson, and InternetNZ all pointed out that markets with easily accessible content are likely to see a much lower proportion of consumers relying on file-sharing for their content.

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Just when we thought for sure he’d been lost at sea or killed by natives, Sam Kearns returns from the wild blue yonder with a new webcast episode packed full of shiny goodness.

In this episode Sam speaks to Melanie Thomas about running as a Pirate candidate for the seat of Griffith and follows the antics of Attorney General George Brandis as he says all the things we don’t want to hear in parliament and at the AUDA forum. Subscribe to the feed, or view past episodes.

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A report recommending the introduction of fair use in Australia was yesterday tabled in Parliament by the Attorney-General, Senator George Brandis[1]. “Copyright and the Digital Economy,” an inquiry by the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC), was tasked with examining whether the current copyright regime is adequately meeting the needs of the increasingly Internet-reliant Australian population. This is the second law reform report in just over a decade to recommend the introduction of fair use, and is more than 400 pages long.

Pirate Party Australia, a strong supporter of the introduction of fair use, was among the hundreds of individuals and organisations that made a submission to the ALRC[2], and was cited more than 10 times in the report. The fair use proposals would provide a generic, flexible exception that allows the unlicenced use of copyrighted material in certain circumstances where a court determines the use of a work (entirely or in part) is reasonable. Several countries have fair use or similar provisions, notably the United States and Israel, and fair use has been credited with providing a fertile environment for the growth of the modern Internet, being necessary for major search engines to function. Australia lacks the competitive edge of the United States in this area, putting the Australian digital economy at an enormous disadvantage.

“Over the past twenty or so years we have adopted many of the negative aspects of the United States’ copyright system, but with few of the safeguards the American laws have,” commented Mozart Olbrycht-Palmer, Deputy Secretary of Pirate Party Australia. “While we increased our copyright term to life plus seventy years via the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement in the early 2000s, we did not import fair use as a flexible exception for using copyrighted material without a licence. If the recommendations of the ALRC report are adopted, Australia will finally be taking positive steps towards copyright reform. These reforms are long overdue and go a long way to ensuring that Australia has copyright laws that genuinely reflect the needs of our society.”

Senator Scott Ludlam’s “Fair Go for Fair Use” Bill pre-empted the results of the ALRC inquiry, and is expected to be reintroduced to Parliament soon. Pirate Party Australia has been highly supportive of this Bill, and hopes that the ALRC report spurs Parliament into passing the much-needed legislation. The ALRC’s report notes the advantages of fair use, such as its flexibility and ability to promote the public interest and assist innovation, and that it aligns with reasonable consumer expectations while protecting rights holders’ markets and moral rights.

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The overnight release of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement’s draft intellectual property chapter has exceeded Pirate Party Australia’s worst fears. While the Party is yet to undertake a thorough analysis of the draft, there are already some provisions that are glaringly ill-considered.

Despite numerous assurances from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) the TPP would not require changes to domestic intellectual property legislation, the draft text indicates that substantial legislative changes would be required if the United States and Australia got its way. These changes may include the criminalisation of “significant willful copyright […] infringements that have no direct […] motivation of financial gain.”

“This corporate wishlist masquerading as a trade agreement is bad for access to knowledge, access to medicine, and access to innovation. It re-enforces the worst parts of our intellectual property enforcement regime on a regional level, making the necessary positive reforms for the digital era much more difficult, if not impossible,” said Brendan Molloy, Councillor of Pirate Party Australia.

“It is absolutely appalling that we are still relying on leaked texts to determine just what we’re getting ourselves into with these trade agreements. Even Parliament is being kept in the dark. It’s time to release the text, and all future texts, so that transparency and oversight can result in texts that help, not hinder, legitimate Australian interests. There is no economic justification for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement’s intellectual property provisions. DFAT must immediately hold public briefings to explain their now public negotiating positions. It’s time for some accountability.”

The Australian delegation is attributed with the minority in many cases, often siding with the US. The current text would require the accession of all parties to several other intellectual property agreements in order to be a member of this agreement, endangering any future positive reform efforts due to layering of treaties. The US is pushing for pharmaceutical provisions that the Australian delegation is standing against.

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