The Pirate Party welcomes the latest development in the Dallas Buyers Club (“DBC”) case[1]. Justice Nye Perram’s ruling protects Australians from speculative invoicing, a practice widespread in the US and other parts of the world in which copyright holders effectively extort legal settlements from those they accuse of copyright infringment. Furthermore, DBC was ordered to pay a bond of $600,000 to access contact details of alleged infringers to ensure they abide by restrictions his Honour may order over the content of communications between the rights-holders and the accused unauthorised file-sharers.

“We are pleased to see the Federal Court taking a keen interest in ensuring customers’ details are not used for shakedowns through speculative invoicing,” said Simon Frew, President of the Pirate Party. “We have been concerned that the DBC case would open the floodgates for a burgeoning new industry of copyright trolling in Australia.”

The judgement is a positive step for consumers because it limits the potential scope of damages. The company has not provided a legitimate way for damages to be calculated and Justice Perram has instructed the damages only be calculated in the context of someone viewing the movie, instead of calculating the cost of buying a commercial license to distribute. This ruling accords with the Pirate Party’s position on the issue, as well those of consumer and digital rights groups such as Electronic Frontiers Australia[2], who make the point that the movie retails for almost nothing compared to what might be sought as damages.

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Last night the Federal Parliament voted to give law enforcement and intelligence agencies access to an unprecedented amount of information on all Australians[1]. The Coalition Government and Australian Labor Party gleefully goose-stepped together to pass legislation requiring telecommunications service providers to store enormous amounts of personal data for a minimum of two years under the mandatory data retention scheme.

This has created a mass surveillance regime that will target all Australians at a time when other countries have abandoned this approach, and Australians will pay for this increased surveillance through taxes and additional phone and Internet charges. This is despite overwhelming evidence that mandatory data retention schemes do not work to reduce serious crime and are a substantial assault on privacy.

Pirate Party Deputy President Simon Frew said: “Years of undermining privacy and other civil liberties has reached a climax. Everyone will live under the shadow of mass surveillance. We can no longer take our privacy for granted. It doesn’t matter if you’re a doctor, a lawyer or a journalist — no one can assume that their communications are confidential. This is the most shamelessly authoritarian legislation Australia has seen for a long time.”

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Today is a dark day for Australians and the Internet as the Labor Party caucus approves data retention[1] and the Coalition prepares to introduce misguided new legislation aimed at combatting online copyright infringement[2]. To encourage Australians to join us in fighting back, the Pirate Party is offering pay-what-you-want memberships with no minimum amount at http://pirateparty.org.au/join

Pirate Party Deputy President Simon Frew said: “The Government and the Opposition have effectively declared war on the Internet and war on our privacy. The Labor Party has rolled over on data retention, meaning all Australians will be subjected to mass surveillance until this appalling legislation is repealed.

“At the same time, legislation to give copyright holders an easy mechanism to get websites blocked will mean we are subjected to a censorship regime. The Government has opted for a long and pointless game of whack-a-mole — as soon as a site is blocked it will pop up in several new places and copyright infringement will continue.

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As the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) convenes its hearings today in the wake of the Sydney hostage crisis, the Pirate Party urges that this tragedy not be used to hastily legislate mandatory data retention. The Pirate Party, while acknowledging and praising the work of NSW Police in resolving the situation, is deeply concerned about the effectiveness of existing investigative and monitoring procedures.

“We must be cautious not to allow this tragedy to cover the passing of legislation that disrupts fundamental rights and freedoms,” commented Brendan Molloy, President of the Pirate Party. “To date, all incidents that could have been preempted have been with existing police powers. Incidents like the Sydney Hostage Crisis would not be preempted with data retention.”

“A significant question that needs to be answered is how a person such as the perpetrator, Man Haron Monis, who was known[1][2][3] to be a potential threat to the community was not under targeted surveillance, as there are already sufficient powers for this purpose. Our law enforcement and intelligence agencies seem too caught up in pushing for more powers and tools, including data retention, rather than responsibly and effectively using the powers they already have.”

“It is vital that this tragedy is not used to needlessly take away the rights and freedoms so basic to our democracy. We urge the Committee on Intelligence and Security to seriously consider the reality that ‘lone actor’ attacks are conducted by people who will not be detected through data retention, and that terrorist organisations know this and are using it to their advantage[4].”

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Last Friday, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights released its report on the Government’s planned mandatory data retention scheme, reviewing its impact on basic human rights[1]. The Committee of 5 Coalition MPs, 4 Labor MPs, and 1 Greens MP[2] slammed the new bill, citing concerns that in its current form the bill may be in violation of Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which prohibits arbitrary interferences with an individual’s privacy, family, correspondence or home. The Bill’s reliance on future regulation to define the scope of surveillance has the potential to create such an interference.

The report spells out that metadata can be used to extrapolate large amounts of personal information including “political opinions, sexual habits, religion or medical concerns”, that the two year retention period is unjustified, and that it is “very intrusive of privacy”. The report also cites the European Court of Justice ruling against the European Union’s similar “Data Retention Directive”.

“The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights has all but confirmed what experts in this field have been saying all along: data retention is disproportionate and unnecessary, it is a serious breach of human rights, and no case has been made for this mass surveillance proposal,” said Brendan Molloy, President of the Pirate Party.

“The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security will hopefully recognise this farce for what it is. It has little do with national security, yet is extremely invasive, will effectively introduce a ‘surveillance tax’ for all Internet users, and will have a direct impact on freedom of expression as a result of the knowledge that everybody can have their position tracked and stored for two years. It is extremely draconian.

“This report provides of a glimmer of hope that Parliamentarians could come to their senses and block this fundamentally destructive proposal.”

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