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].

“While it is claimed this benefits consumers as well as copyright holders, the Government has not lifted a finger to address recommendations that would genuinely resolve the access and affordability issues faced by Australians. If the Government was serious about addressing copyright infringement, it would focus on the reality that geographically segmented markets for digital content are unacceptable, impractical and impossible in 2014, that copy protection does little except frustrate paying consumers, and that consumers demand flexibility in the way they can consume content.

“The Government is creating a situation in which everyone is expected to work for the benefit of copyright holders. It is clear that the Government anticipates that everyone who provides access to the Internet, including libraries, schools and cafes that provide wifi hotspots, will be policing the connection on behalf of copyright holders. Regardless of the burden this would impose, everyone will be working to prop up and protect industries that have stubbornly refused to adapt to cultural and technological changes that have been occurring for at least the last 25 years.”

The Pirate Party suspects that these plans tie-in with the ill-defined purpose behind data retention legislation currently before Parliament. Several definitions of “metadata” have included data that could be used for the purposes of civil litigation, including actions for alleged copyright infringement.

Meanwhile it appears the Minister for Communications, Malcolm Turnbull, has dismissed contentions that blocking websites is Internet filtering[5]. The Pirate Party disagrees with the Minister’s misunderstanding of the core definition of “filter”, holding that blocking access to websites is censorship.

“Website blocking is censorship, plain and simple. It has always been suspected that file-sharing would be captured by filtering at some stage. Now the Coalition has dropped all pretence and introduced a form of filtering purely to protect old media from the Internet. By ignoring the IT Pricing Inquiry and numerous submissions to different reviews that Australians are regularly paying more and waiting longer for content, the Coalition is looking to enact a legislative dinosaur that will be easily bypassed by savvy Internet users in seconds,” commented Simon Frew, Deputy President of the Pirate Party.

“The Liberal Party recognised just before the last Federal Election that Internet censorship is electoral suicide and abandoned its policy on the eve of the election. Voters aren’t stupid and will see this renewed censorship policy for what it is.”

Mr Molloy added: “People have decided that they want to engage with their culture in new ways that conflict with the Copyright Act, and the Government’s press release itself notes that it has sided with copyright maximalists over the interests of their citizens and voters. Using such legislation to fight the amazing technological advances that have brought the entire world closer together to interact in ways previously unimaginable is futile beyond measure.

“Copyright-based industries must act to meet consumer demand, not cynically attempt to have legislation akin to the failed American SOPA implemented in Australia to penalise consumers for their own antiquated business practices.”

The Pirate Party calls on ISPs to hold firm against any proposals that would turn them into “copyright cops” and would interfere with their customers at the behest of the copyright industries.

[1] http://www.malcolmturnbull.com.au/issues/new-measures-to-tackle-online-copyright-infringement
[2] http://pirateparty.org.au/media/submissions/PPAU_2014_AGD_Online_Copyright_Infringement_DP.pdf
[3] http://www.malcolmturnbull.com.au/issues/new-measures-to-tackle-online-copyright-infringement
[4] http://pirateparty.org.au/2014/12/09/website-blocking-ineffective-and-disproportionate-says-translated-dutch-court-judgment/
[5] https://twitter.com/joshgnosis/status/542519751214260227

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

This is a 5 minute speech which speaks to the proposition “That all content should be made available to everyone, everywhere, immediately.”, presented by Rodney Serkowski, Treasurer of Pirate Party Australia at a Metro Screen piracy debate.

This evening’s proposition that all content should be available to everyone, everywhere, immediately — is actually quite close to reality. Pirates, otherwise known as fans, are satiating demand for services where industry has so far failed, or refused, to catch up to norms and expectations of a connected populace.

The proliferation of the Internet has fundamentally altered how we interact with knowledge, culture and information. Even the ACCC has acknowledged that illicit file sharing is simply a market response to the resistance of industry to adapt to those shifts by perpetuating pre-existing limitations on their customer base,[1] although I will argue later it is both a market response and a wider cultural or generational shift in attitudes.

There are several factors that drive demand towards illicit file sharing.

Continue reading

This opinion piece was co-authored by David Campbell (President) and Mozart Olbrycht-Palmer (Deputy Secretary).

Following the ABC’s announcement that they will be streaming timely content from the new series of Dr Who, I applaud the broadcaster for moving with public demand and technological advancements.

I am very pleased to see a publicly funded broadcaster moving with society rather than against it. The ABC has recognised the demand for global release dates to be brought closer together. If more broadcasters (and content rights holders) could recognise this demand and innovate within the marketplace, as the ABC has done, the issues of fans wanting content available in a timely fashion would no longer be a concern.

Instead of attacking fans with litigation, or lobbying governments to restrict our civil rights, we need to move with new technology and innovate within the global market. Old media broadcasters cannot afford to flounder or their place will be taken by new content suppliers who have adapted to the changing environment.

When fans of a television show can share high definition “pirate” recordings with the other side of the world within hours of the initial broadcast, Australian fans find it difficult to understand why it takes weeks, months or even years for a television show to reach our shores. In a globally connected society, where peer groups span the world, creating ubiquitous word-of-mouth demand and discussing popular content and culture, the lack of availability often results in infringement of the established copyright monopoly.

Continue reading

In the last week we have seen four important votes as various committees in the European Parliament consider the merits of the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.

In what can be considered four important victories against the agreement, the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE), the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE), the Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI) and the Committee on Development (DEVE) all voted to recommend to the Committee on International Trade (INTA) that the European Parliament withhold consent to ACTA.

Whilst there are important votes approaching on June 20, where INTA will decide its recommendation to the European Parliament as it digests the ITRE, LIBE, JURI and DEVE recommendations and adds it’s own to the mix, the Australian Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) is currently considering the ACTA text. It’s report into the agreement is expected in late June, or early July.

The following is a supplementary submission to JSCOT, providing a distilled version of events in Europe in the hope the Committee considers those events in Europe in its final report, hopefully condemning the opaque process, the blunt and reckless signing of ACTA by the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade, where a more considered sectoral approach should have been considered, one that respected fundamental freedoms like privacy, the freedom of expression and was aware of the need for fundamental and structural reform.

Continue reading