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.
“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. 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.