news The Australian Greens Party has demanded that Australia’s Labor Federal Government support efforts such as Wikipedia’s site blackout initiative to protest the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and associated legislation currently being considered by the US Government.
Wikipedia overnight revealed it would black out the English language version of its website to protest SOPA and the associated PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), following similar announcements by other popular organisations such as Mozilla, Google, the Free Software Foundation and Reddit. Organisations such as Facebook and Twitter have also expressed concerns over the legislation.
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. PIPA is an associated piece of legislation which would give the US Government and copyright holders additional powers to target websites allegedly infringing copyright regulations.
In a statement issued this afternoon, the Greens called on the Australian Government to “take a stand” in defence of Australian Internet users and protect the viability of the Internet as a medium, highlighting Wikipedia’s stance as “an example of the depth of the campaign to prevent the bill from becoming law”.
“Has the Australian Government made any representation whatsoever to the US Government on this issue?” asked Greens Communications Spokesperson Scott Ludlam (pictured) in the statement. “Do they recognise that there will be little purpose in investing tens of billions of dollars in the NBN if the US copyright industry cripples the medium itself?”
“As an example of breathtaking overreach by US copyright interests, the SOPA proposal and its cousin PIPA are hard to beat. The bills will institutionalise far-reaching, unaccountable censorship in order to protect the commercial interests of a handful of powerful media companies. The bills risk the broad-scale criminalisation of filesharing, the decimation of the open source community and tactical use of financial blockades against commercial competitors or non-commercial sites.
Ludlam pointed out that under the legislation, US courts could bar online advertising networks and payment companies from doing business with websites which were allegedly infringing copyright law, bar search engines from linking to such sites, and require ISPs to block access to such sites. The legislation would also introduce what Ludlam said were “extreme penalties” for the unauthorised streaming of copyrighted content — such as maximum penalties of five years in prison for ten infringements within six months — and making infringements a criminal offence.
“SOPA would block entire non-US websites in the United States as a response to select infringing material,” he said. “This includes Australian sites, and the online operations of Australian businesses.”
The Greens’ comments follow similar sentiments expressed by the Australian Sex Party in late November.
At the time, the Sex Party’s President Fiona 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.
Referring to controversial meetings held by the Federal Attorney-General’s Department on the issue of online piracy, the Sex Party said the Australian Government had already begun to remove due process from the prosecution of copyright infringement. “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 party’s statement said.
In addition, today the Australian Pirate Party blacked out its web site to join the protest, and issued a statement damning the US legislation.
“Regardless of whether its purpose is legitimate or whether it will work; the legislation is not compatible with democratic values,” the Pirate Party Australia said in a statement. “It promotes censorship by giving the US Government and corporations the power to block access to – and take down – websites that they consider to be infringing on their copyright monopoly, including search engines or blogs which link to such sites.”
“A link placed by a user in the comment section of an article in a regular Internet magazine could result in the magazine going bankrupt and the owners being charged with a crime. This would not only cripple innovation and entrepreneurship, it would be a flagrant violation of the fundamental human right to free speech.”