In the wake of the Melbourne terror incident and the terror attacks in London and Manchester the Federal government is attempting to shift some of the blame for the actions of the terrorists in these latest attacks on to large Internet companies and the encryption technology which keeps us all safe online.

Pirate Party Australia opposes any weakening of encryption because it will be ineffective, it will harm the privacy of ordinary citizens and it will make it easier for private data to be stolen by hackers, both criminal and state sponsored.

The Internet relies on functioning encryption to protect users from attack. It is estimated that in 2016 ‘cybercrime’ increased by 30% and cost the Australian economy three billion dollars.[1] Every time a vulnerability is created, such as allowing intelligence agencies to access private communications, it creates another vector for attacks to occur.

“Security online is weak enough without the government pushing to make it weaker,” said Simon Frew, President of Pirate Party Australia. “Any vulnerability created for intelligence agencies is a vulnerability for people with more nefarious intentions. A good example of this occurred last year when security experts published a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows Secure Boot, a system that is designed to protect systems from hacking. Microsoft included a workaround so developers could test systems without needing to validate the software. This was used to install malware that Secure Boot was specifically designed to stop[2]. With such benign work arounds being exploited for malware, breaking end-to-end encryption would be a disaster in the making.”

“This is the beginning of the next round of ‘crypto wars’ between the government and private citizens. With each new power granted to spies and law enforcement agencies, people concerned with their privacy take new measures to protect themselves from the government,” Mr Frew continued. “Forcing social media giants to employ backdoors in their messaging services will just lead to other platforms being adopted and those who wish to communicate anonymously will continue to do so. Those without technical knowhow to work around broken encryption will be at greater risk.”

“Private communications are vital for an open society. When citizens believe they are under constant surveillance, they self-censor and this creates a chilling effect. Legitimate criticisms of government policy may not be aired and our democracy suffers as a result. This is also a risk to the economy, with businesses relying on encryption to securely do business, weakening encryption puts businesses at significant risk. We call upon the government to abandon its misguided plans to weaken encryption and instead suggest more investment in police resources to manage the known terrorist threats. Increasing the size of the data haystack collected by mass surveillance isn’t working, it has turned everyone into a suspect and eroded the presumption of innocence.” Simon concluded.

[1] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-05-19/cybercrime,-online-scamming-of-business-up-30pc:-accc/8537992
[2] https://www.wired.com/2016/08/microsoft-secure-boot-hack

The Australian Federal Police have this afternoon admitted[1] to accessing a journalist’s metadata without a warrant. It is less than a year since data retention scheme went live, with all Australian individuals and businesses communications metadata now saved by communications providers. The Pirate Party has warned of this exact scenario occurring since the metadata collection scheme was proposed. It should come as no surprise to anyone with a grain of foresight that this would occur.

“When people campaigning against data retention said ‘get a warrant’, they meant it” said Michael Keating, Deputy President of Pirate Party Australia. “Our fears that anyone with access to the data retention system could access metadata without needing a warrant were not unfounded, and the AFP have confirmed our position as being correct. Setting up a mass surveillance system was always going to lead to egregious breaches in privacy and we only know about this one because the victim was a journalist.”

“What this breach has made clear is that there are no mechanisms in place to deal with failures in the data retention scheme. The victim of the breach has not been notified and to add insult to injury, the AFP have played down the breach by saying “the contents of the call were not accessed,” he continued.

“The AFP clearly do not understand the damage to the privacy of Australian citizens that every improper access to their data brings. They, and indeed any organisation that can access metadata records, should not be trusted with accessing records without a warrant. It should not take a failure of process to prevent individuals privacy from being breached,” Mr Keating said.

“The Pirate Party is committed to repealing the data retention system. It removes Australians’ right to privacy, as the AFP have shown they can access what they like, when they like. Journalists should be asking a lot of questions about this breach. Every individual should be questioning their local member as to their right to privacy” he concluded.

The Pirate Party urges Australians to contact their local member and tell them warrantless access of their metadata is simply unacceptable. The Pirate Party re-affirms its stance to protecting privacy in Australia.

[1] https://www.afp.gov.au/news-media/media-releases/afp-reports-breach-tia-act-commonwealth-ombudsman

It has been revealed that the Copyright Agency, the body tasked with collecting copyright payments from universities, schools and other public institutions, has been lining its own pockets with fees collected for orphan works. Instead of the money being used to encourage new works by authors and journalists, it has been secretly allocated to wage a campaign against the Productivity Commission’s proposal to introduce a fair use copyright provision in Australia.[1]

“Whilst we advocate for users to have the right to copy works for non-commercial purposes, what the Copyright Agency has done is essentially theft, going by the standards rights-holders usually label others.” said Simon Frew, President of Pirate Party Australia. “We believe that collecting money from educational institutions for quoting works should be done away with, as proposed by the Productivity Commission. However, whilst it is part of the copyright system authors deserve the full amount collected, or the institutions should get a refund. These funds were collected to support creative efforts, not to bank roll lawyers and self serving marketing campaigns.”

“Milking educational institutions for income, refusing to hold it for the rightful recipients of the money and then using it to wage a political campaign against those institutions is villainous,” Mr Frew continued. “It is, at best, an attempt to defend the Copyright Agency’s own relevance, if fair use provisions were introduced into copyright law, their role in collecting and distributing copyright money would diminish.”

Australia has many of the worst aspects of the US copyright system, introduced as part of the Australia US Free Trade Agreement, without any of the benefits. Fair use allows for wider use of copyrighted items than exists under the Australian fair dealing system, which includes quotation rights for educational purposes. The restrictive fair dealing system in Australia restricts what is possible for new technology companies and digital innovators. A company like Google would be sued out of existence before they could get off the ground in Australia’s current regulatory environment.

“We call on the federal government to enact fair use provisions into Australian copyright law as a matter of urgency. Innovation is being hampered by the vague and overbearing fair dealing provisions in Australian copyright law” he concluded.

[1] http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/copyright-agency-diverts-funds-meant-for-authors-to-15m-fighting-fund-20170420-gvol0w.html

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].

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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.

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