Brandis refuses to answer piracy questions



news Federal Attorney-General George Brandis has flatly refused to comment on a report that the new Coalition Government has signalled plans to restart long-running talks between the telecommunications and content industries to deal with the issue of Internet piracy, with the Liberal Senator declining to answer any question on the issue.

The Australian newspaper reported last week (we recommend you click here for the full article) that “the Attorney-General’s Department has sent letters to the nation’s top telcos and content creators seeking their participation in a series of industry roundtables to resolve the online piracy issue as a matter of urgency”.

The last round of talks between ISPs and the content industry were also hosted by the Attorney-General’s Department, with departmental secretary Roger Wilkins believed to be taking a personal hand in an issue the bureaucrat has seen as important for the previous Labor Government. The talks were held between late 2011 and mid-2012, but ultimately broke down due to an inability of the two sides to come to any form of agreement.

It is not yet clear precisely what Brandis or the Attorney-General’s Department is seeking from the talks. Delimiter has filed a Freedom of Information request with the department seeking the text of any letters sent by Brandis or the Department to telcos on the issue since Brandis took office.

However, one thing is certain: Brandis is not interested in discussing the issue. Last week Delimiter sent the Office of the Attorney-General a range of questions on the issue. The questions were:

  • Given that the Coalition declined to detail a policy on online copyright infringement before the election, does the new Government believe it has a mandate to pursue reform in this area?
  • During the previous round of talks, consumer groups such as ACCAN and the Internet Society of Australia were initially denied access to the discussions. Will consumer groups be invited to the new round of talks?
  • iiNet regulatory chief Steve Dalby has described his experience of talking to the content industry during the last round of talks as like “talking to a brick wall”. Ultimately the previous round of talks petered out. Why does the Government believe a new round of talks on the issue of online copyright infringement will be able to achieve a positive outcome on the issue, when the last round of talks failed to do so over the period of a year?
  • Can the Government commit to holding an open public inquiry on this issue where the public can have their say, before any legislation or industry agreements are formalised on the issue?
  • Can the Attorney-General clarify whether the stimulus for new talks came from the department, or from the office of the Attorney-General?

In response, Brandis issued only a brief statement stating: “The Australian Law Reform Commission is currently conducting an inquiry into Copyright and the Digital Economy. The Government will consider the recommendations of the final report when it is received in November 2013.”

News of the move by the Attorney-General’s Department to re-open the anti-piracy talks has already attracted strong criticism from some elements of the Australian digital rights community. In a statement, the Pirate Party Australia pointed out that The Australian’s article mentioned plans to create a censorship regime to block sites that enabled filed sharing, and that it condemned any plans for such a regime.

“Yet again we are faced with a government that is an enemy of the Internet,” commented Simon Frew, President of Pirate Party Australia. “Previous Attorney-Generals organised secret meetings between ISPs and the copyright lobby, deliberately excluding consumers, and now history repeats. We demand that any consultation about the future of the Internet be conducted transparently and include competent and trusted representatives of the community, not just vested interests.”

“File sharing is not the problem that needs solving,” said Brendan Molloy, Councillor of Pirate Party Australia. “Graduated response regimes and censorship mechanisms have been proven time and time again to fail to have an impact on file sharing. What has been proven to lower file sharing is convenient, affordable access to content, which is still lacking in Australia. This market access issue, as well as geocodes and other anachronisms of the Copyright Act, are the problems that needs solving, not file sharing.”

The Pirate party said graduated response regimes that result in disconnection from the Internet (better known as “three strikes” schemes) are shown to have limited to no impact on file sharing. Censorship regimes like the proposal being floated by the Attorney-General are circumventable within seconds, the party claimed.

“The Internet sees censorship as damage and routes around it. Work with your fans, not against them,” Molloy concluded.

Image credit: CeBIT, Creative Commons



    Article 27.

    (2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.

    • Why thank you for that George, now off you go and dance like a fool at some right wing fascist radio tools wedding… on the taxpayers expense account… but don’t all the nations chief law officers do that?

      Oh, no, that’s right, only the ones that follow the monks laws…

    • >> “… of which he is the author.”

      Most or all of the folks demanding action under the current Copyright Act are not authors.

      They are middle men whose 20th century roles, in the 21st century digital economy, are evaporating – along with their non-digital revenues.

      Their concern is rational, their demand that someone else do something about it, is not.

      • To be honest I disagree wholeheartedly with the claim that “their concern is rational”.

        Let us not forget for a moment that this situation has been deliberately constructed by these “middle men”, by carefully:

        (1) refusing to make content available electronically (for many many many years)

        (2) assigning exclusive distribution deals without requiring that *ALL* content thusly be distributed (resulting in the situation where “you literally cannot buy that in this country”)

        (3) generating a massive online community/social-network around content (and somehow being surprised that not allowing people worldwide SIMULTANEOUS access to content results in excessive frustration for consumers)

        or simply by

        (4) making content available, in a timely manner, but at an unfairly expensive cost (for whatever reason)

        There is absolutely NOTHING “fair” in the intentions of these “middle men”, their expectations are fundamentally unreasonable. And when we, the people, argue the case for rational discourse, their solution is back-room political lobbying with an (effectively) unlimited budget.

        It has been proven , conclusively in many countries, that when there is timely access to content in a reasonable manner and at a fair price, copyright-infringement PLUMMETS.

        Unfortunately these middle-men have failed to understand that characterising your customer-base as “fundamentally lawbreakers and criminals” is a poor business model.

        Let us be clear on this point, these people are thugs and their business model is not significantly dissimilar to organised crime.

      • So, how exactly do you envision the future? You expect every small musical act, say, “Mark Vincent”, to set up their own company with all the overheads of full-time staff just to manage, monitor and collect global performance royalties for a few lousy album releases? Sure, superstar acts like U2 or Rolling Stones with their TEN FIGURE revenues probably do self-manage their own royalty streams as opposed to assigning them to Performance Societies. Please enlighten.

          • Sorry, we were talking about how we envision the future regarding creator ownership, revenues and how it can work in the new internet paradigm. I’m sure that new performance royalty management services will develop as the old ones die, or at least that they’ll come down in cost, on the assumption that existing styles of licensing agreement continue into the future.

          • “new performance royalty management services will develop”… you mean new “middlemen” that will enforce the copyright of original works belonging to authors they represent? HOW REVOLUTIONARY! and how does the system work currently?

  2. Copyright is privilege not a right don’t you forget that
    It is granted by people not a political party

  3. Of course Brandis refuses to answer, his stance has already been made clear in the past – in that he has stated he supports rights holders and the big companies rorting Australian consumers. He knows his position is unpopular with the electorate so better to say nothing at all.

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