With fresh moves afoot to remove the words insult and offend from section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act[1], the Pirate Party calls upon Parliament to get serious about supporting free speech.

“Pirate Party Australia is well aware of the risks around state censorship of opinions,” said Simon Frew, President of Pirate Party Australia. “We fought the Internet censorship laws of the Rudd Government and we opposed the Gillard Government’s attempt to extend section 18C in ways that would have banned causing offence on the grounds of religion and political opinion.”

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The Pirate Party condemns the passage of the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015 through both Houses of Parliament. The legislation means that Australia now joins a list of countries that allows individuals and companies to seek orders to censor websites they allege infringe copyright.

“Today we saw the payoff for rights holders such as Village Roadshow, who have poured over half a million dollars into the coffers of the major parties over the last financial year[1]. These donations show the influence of money on the direction of Australian politics, where censorship will now be employed to prop-up failing business models,” said Simon Frew, Deputy President of the Pirate Party. “This is at best a misguided attempt to protect rights holders from the ‘menace’ of piracy.

“This legislation does not address the underlying reasons why Australians are at the top of the list for online infringement,” Mr Frew continued. “Content for Australian audiences is often released weeks or months after other countries, and often at a higher price, in formats that make access inconvenient, or locked to devices they do not want to use. File-sharing websites provide timely access and often in high-quality formats that consumers can easily use.

“Most Australians are willing to pay if the price is reasonable, and access is both convenient and timely. You only have to look at the rapid uptake of Netflix since it became available in Australia two months ago to see this in action. Giving consumers what they want, when they want it, and at a reasonable price is the most effective way to tackle online copyright infringement.”

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The Pirate Party renews its calls for greater transparency and participation in treaty negotiation, following the latest leaked draft of the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) that shows the agreement is likely to impose anti-privacy and anti-freedom of speech obligations upon Australia[1]. These provisions would benefit large multinational corporations and governments at the cost of the rights of the citizens, and are being negotiated behind closed doors.

“Democracy is under threat, not from terrorism or rising global tensions, but from secretly negotiated treaties like the Trade in Services Agreement and the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” said Simon Frew, Deputy President of the Pirate Party. “Provisions too severe to be proposed domestically for fear of being summarily booted from office are being included in treaty negotiations to be swallowed as a bitter pill along with what might otherwise be sensible proposals. TISA is the latest in a long line of secret treaties that have adopted this strategy, and must be opposed as vigorously as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement before it.”

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The Government, law enforcement and intelligence organisations have repeatedly insisted that Australians have nothing to fear from data retention — they just want to collect “metadata” and not the content of communications. This is a disingenuous attempt at reassurance — “metadata” is data, pure and simple, as one German politician demonstrated.

The website[1], provided by Zeit Online, provides an interactive playback of six months of metadata Malte Spitz accessed from his telecommunications company from 2009, showing his near exact location, fully replayable.

“Across a six month period German politician Malte Spitz was able to use the data retained by his telco to track his movements around Europe. It was able to show how simply carrying a mobile phone with you reveals where you are at nearly all times. This is the sort of mass surveillance system the Australian Government is proposing,” said Brendan Molloy, President of the Pirate Party.

“The information they want retained reveals everything about the communication except the content — if you strip away the doublespeak it is data. This information is far from innocuous. It reveals locations, times and interactions. It can be used to create a picture of where everyone has been and who everyone has communicated with, and very precisely. If you sent a text message to your partner before boarding a plane and called them when you arrived they would be able determine what mode of transport you took based on the time and location differences between those interactions.

“No case has been made that justifies the expansion of law enforcement powers to include data retention. All examples used to jusify the introduction of data retention have been based on successes under the current system, disproving the necessity of creating a surveillance state in which even plaintiffs in civil cases such as copyright infringement will be able to access this data.”

The recently proposed data retention legislation will also have a chilling effect on freedom of expression and freedom of the press, with the stored data capable of identifying links between journalists and their sources. The Pirate Party strongly encourages journalists to speak out against the legislation which will put them and their sources at increased risk of prosecution.

“If you publish stories revealing corruption or abuse of powers, law enforcement and intelligence personnel will be able to access, without a warrant, details of who you are communicating with and where you and they were at the time. The risk of being caught will mean less people speaking up and providing information to journalists. Stories that are in the public interest simply won’t be written.

“This is an unmitigated attack on freedom of the press. No one will be safe from the prying eyes of the surveillance state,” Mr Molloy concluded.

[1] http://www.zeit.de/datenschutz/malte-spitz-data-retention

On Thursday, the Government introduced data retention legislation into the House of Representatives as the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2014[1]. The AFP has confirmed, even before the legislation has been voted upon in Parliament, that data retention will be used for copyright enforcement[2]. The legislation also confirms that the exact location of mobile phone users will be stored as part of these provisions.

“There are far too many flaws in this legislation to enumerate,” said Brendan Molloy, President of the Pirate Party.

“There has been no discussion as to why the current retention order provisions are insufficient. This legislation is disproportionate and unnecessary. ‘Metadata’ is ill-defined in such a way as to contain so much information that it is effectively the content of the communication, insofar that it contains the context and location of all communications. This is a massive issue for journalists, whistleblowers, activists, and a whole host of other persons whose activities are in many cases legal but perhaps not in the interests of the state to let happen without some level of harassment.

“There are significant issues relating to cost and security of the data. Steve Dalby of iiNet said yesterday that iiNet would consider storing the data where it is the cheapest, which includes Chinese cloud providers. There will be a significant ‘surveillance tax’ introduced by retailers to cover the costs of storing this data that nobody wants stored.

“Now we have it admitted by the AFP today that this legislation will be used for something completely unrelated to national security: copyright enforcement. The legislation hasn’t passed and yet already the scope is creeping! They are taking away our right to free expression and privacy to protect the profits of a few large corporations.

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