news The Australian division of digital rights political party the Pirate Party has condemned as “completely injustified” a proposal by the Federal Government to streamline the legal process whereby copyright holders can request details of alleged Internet pirates from Australian Internet service providers.
The proposal was revealed by Federal Attorney-General Robert McCLelland in a speech this morning to a conference organised by the Australian Copyright Council, an association of copyright holders. If it goes ahead, the modified process will make it easier for anti-piracy organisations such as Movie Rights Group and the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft to secure the details of individuals allegedly illegally downloading content online.
Cases in the US have shown that, once those details have been obtained, copyright owners will often issue a letter to the alleged infringers, requesting they settle the copyright owner’s legal claim on the matter, or face legal action. This is the approach being introduced in Australia by Movie Rights Group, a new organisation representing film studios.
In the speech, McClelland highlighted two recent reports published by the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft, and the newly formed Australian Content Industry Group, to illustrate the issue. In a statement in response, representatives of the Pirate Party Australia noted it would submit a response to the consultative process around the proposal.
“However, the Attorney-General’s war on sharing is completely unjustified and relies on extremely questionable research commissioned by the copyright lobby,” said the party’s president, Rodney Serkowski.
“File sharing is a legitimate form of cultural participation, and the move to criminalise and repress it by governments all over the world whilst sacrificing privacy and turning carriage service providers into de facto copyright cops is simply a ploy by the copyright monopoly to sacrifice our privacy in pursuit of financial gain. What they are looking for is a streamlined system for the invasion of privacy.”
McClelland’s department has recently been hosting talks between the content and ISP industries on the matter of file-sharing, with the aim of coming to an industry resolution on the issue. The issue is also slated to hit the High Court, courtesy of AFACT’s ongoing lawsuit against ISP iiNet. However, the departmental talks have been held behind closed doors.
In early October, the Department of the Attorney-General declined a Freedom of Information request for the minutes of the first meeting, stating that no such document existed.
“We have been highly critical of the process by which the Attorney General’s Department has conducted its consultations, which have largely excluded civil society and consumers,” said Serkowski. The most important stakeholders have not been able to participate.”
McClelland also noted today that in the US, an agreement had been reached between content owners and ISPs on the issue of file sharing. The agreement will see users disconnected from the Internet after they have allegedly breached copyright six times.
“Any system that seeks to limit, suspend or terminate access to the Internet, is completely disproportionate and violates fundamental rights and freedoms. We completely reject any move in this direction,” said Serkowski today.
The discussion paper also discusses a change to legislation that would widen so-called Safe Harbour rules protecting organisations such as ISPs from the actions of their users.
“We do however welcome steps to broaden safe harbour for service providers,” added acting Pirate Party secretary Brendan Molloy, “but this shouldn’t be limited to copyright infringement, nor should it sacrifice privacy in the process. Libellous statements posted to a moderated forum should [see the service host protected] under safe harbour regulations, for example.”