news The Australian Sex Party has accused the Federal Government of following the lead of the United States in restricting civil liberties in Internet usage, with proposed American legislation such as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in play in the US and controversial talks between the content and ISP industries similarly under way locally.
SOPA was introduced into the US House of Representatives in late October. The legislation would allow the US Department of Justice, as well as copyright holders such as film and TV studios, to seek extensive court orders against websites accused of enabling or facilitating copyright infringement, potentially impacting their commercial operations and protecting ISPs.
“Right now, the US congress is considering legislation which would allow censorship of anything suspected of copyright infringement, and mandate information relating to such activity and the identities of users, to be handed to law enforcement authorities,” Sex Party President, Fiona Patten said in a statement issued late last week.
Earlier this year the Federal Attorney-General’s Department held a closed door meeting between representatives from the ISP and content industries. It later declined to release any minutes from the meeting under Freedom of Information laws, stating such a document did not exist. This drew criticism from digital rights groups Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) and the Pirate Party Australia.
In mid-October, although it quickly withdrew the proposal, the Attorney-General’s Department issued a paper proposing to modify federal regulations to make it easier for anti-piracy organisations to request details of alleged Internet pirates from ISPs.
“The Australian Government has already begun to remove due process from the prosecution of copyright infringement, and this new legislation being considered in the US could signal an expansion of the surveillance and dubious legal tactics already being employed in Australia,” the Sex Party’s statement said.
The Sex Party’s Patten said the enforcement of copyright laws must be balanced with the right to privacy, and the due process of Australia’s legal system was paramount — “to erode it is to ignore the foundation of fairness in our country,” she said.
“The Attorney-General, Robert McClelland is threatening the rights of ordinary Australians for the sake of so-called movie rights groups, established to profiteer from such actions, not to benefit artists and those who create movies and other entertainment. This, coupled with the ever-present threat that Senator Conroy will again lead the charge to re-introduce internet censorship legislation, paints a bleak future for freedom in Australia.”
“We must not follow the US legislative approach blindly. The US-Australia military alliance must not extend to militant legal action against Australians. Government must stop using pornography, child protection and copyright infringement as excuses to violate the rights of individuals to privacy and freedom. It is not the Government who should parent children, rather, parents need to take responsibility for their children’s welfare, and adults must be afforded the rights they are entitled to.” Patten said.
In response to questions on the issue, the office of the Attorney-General has responded that it remains the Government’s preference to have an industry-based solution to address online copyright infringement. It has also noted that consumer representatives would be consulted in respect to any such scheme.
It’s easy to pigeonhole the Australian Sex Party as being a tiny minority party which doesn’t represent mainstream Australian society. However, whenever I’ve dealt with the party, its policies have just seemed to make a great deal of sense when it comes to the technology sector. This is what its web site states are its policies on censorship, for example:
- Bring about the establishment of a truly national classification scheme which includes a uniform non-violent erotica rating for explicit adult material for all jurisdictions and through all media including the Internet and computer games.
- Introduce an R and X rating for computer games
- To overturn mandatory ISP filtering of the Internet and return Internet censorship to parents and individuals.
- We oppose the mandatory retention of all Australian users’ internet browsing history and emails by ISPs for at-will inspection by law enforcement agencies, and support strong judicial oversight over the ability of law enforcement to access individuals’ internet and email data.
I would say that much of the technology sector would agree with this — certainly it’s the feeling I get from readers whenever I’ve written on these issues.
Opinion/analysis by Renai LeMay