Online Copyright Infringement Discussion Paper

I seriously love my friends. They’re a varied crew, all interested in a huge range of subjects. There is one common thread, however. They’re almost all into what is right.

I recently received this email from a friend in regards to a conversation underway about an online copyright infringement discussion paper. As it is a subject rather close to my heart, I thought I would share its contents with you. It is from the Australian Digital Alliance.

It continues to be an exciting year for copyright in Australia! Of particular note is the government’s request for feedback on its proposals on online copyright infringement which are due on 1 September 2014.

Online Copyright Infringement Discussion Paper

The government recently released a discussion paper aimed at reducing online copyright infringement.  The paper had three main proposals:

  • Extend authorisation liability;
  • Provide a new injunctive process to block overseas websites whose dominant purpose is to infringe copyright; and
  • Extend the safe harbours to a wider class of intermediaries (including schools and universities).

We have a quick overview of the proposals and have blogged some preliminary responses to the proposal to extend authorisation liability.  While this measure is directed ISPs, it is not restricted to ISPs, meaning that the changes will impact on other intermediaries such as schools, libraries, online platforms and universities.  In particular we are concerned that:

  • It will increase legal risk
  • It will increase legal uncertainty
  • It will encourage reliance on the safe harbours, including the requirement for an implemented policy for disconnection of repeat infringers
  • It will put Australia at odds with international norms

We have commissioned Dr Rebecca Giblin to write a paper that examining the effects on intermediaries and also do a comparative analysis of the forms of secondary liability with other core jurisdictions.

We will of course be putting in a submission, and would encourage others to do the same.  EFA has put together some consumer facing materials that may be useful and CHOICE is asking for consumer stories about access to content.  I haven’t seen anything from groups such as the Copyright Council, but if you have additional resources please feel free to bring them to our attention!

Trade Agreements
We have signed tow FTAs this year with Korea and Japan, both contain IP chapters. On copyright these continue to focus on enforcement, with limited recognition of other interests. In the reports on KAFTA they also included an opinion that the decision in the iiNet case was inconsistent with our trade agreements, and should be overturned, something that has now been suggested in the response to online copyright infringement.  We disagree with this interpretation of our international commitments, and said so in our submission.

Negotiations on the TPP continue, the next meeting will be in the first week in September in Hanoi.  The intention still seems to be concluding the agreement in  November, but this hinges a lot on whether Japan, the US and Canada can sort out the market access issues.  We continue to liaise at departmental and political level to ensure that the negotiators and decision makers are aware of the potential effects on user groups.

Other matters

We’ve also recently put in a submission to the Competition Policy Review (done a fair amount of media about the lack of movement on the IT Pricing recommendations \and supporting the work of the libraries at WIPO

Within the Attorney-General’s department a small group has been created to look at copyright reform, including online infringement and the ALRC recommendations.  We continue to work on this, and will be looking to some wider advocacy efforts toward the end of the year.

And, in some excellent news, we finally signed the Marrakesh Treaty!

If anyone is in Melbourne on Tuesday/Wednesday do consider coming to AuIGF – I’ll be speaking on panels about regulation on the internet and intermediary liability.

As always. please do keep up with our work at http://digital.org.au/blog or follow @aus_digital on twitter.  And feel free to email info@digital.org.au questions/concerns/suggestions/queries.

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Self-Censorship is Everywhere.

In the decision to publish my last post, there was a greater amount of consultation with others than previously. The question was not whether or not the issue needed to be discussed, because I still maintain that it definitely did. The question was, “Will posting about this cause potential employers to discount my applications due to my writing?”

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Censorship by IsaacMao : flickr

I spent a good few weeks thinking about whether or not to write the post, and then a few more questioning whether or not I ought to publish it. As I said on Twitter and my Facebook page, it was the hardest decision I had made in reference to my blog to date. This post is a close second.

Why do we feel the need for self-censorship? Why do we feel that some things we know ought to be said should not be said by ourselves? That it needs to be said, but maybe by someone else? That “something” need to be done by “someone” else. Have we become so afraid of repercussions resulting from the right actions, as much as the wrong ones?

In the current global economic and political environment, I can excuse some of this fear. The need for a job, secure or otherwise, is paramount for most of us. There are bills to pay and roofs to maintain. There’s a need for food on the table, and transport to take us where we need to go. Everything is our lives depends on a steady income, which depends on us appearing to follow the status quo. Don’t rock the boat or you might lose your job, because there’s a million people just lining up to take your position from you. Or so we are told.

But what if that boat needs rocking? What if that “someone” who needs to do “something” never does? What if that someone is ourselves, and if we don’t take that first, scary, terrifying step to lift our heads, open our mouths and actually say something, then no one ever will? Have we become so institutionalised that we refuse to be the first to move?

There have often been complaints against “slacktivism,” suggesting that it is a lack of desire to actually effect change that drives the “likes” and sharing of stories, rather than actual getting off the couch and doing. Perhaps there is a different reason for the rise in the “slacktivist”? Liking something on facebook is a relatively safe activity. Sharing a story through social media is safer than actually joining an activist group and attending a protest. Especially if you have that all too useful “retweets are not endorsements” attached to your profile.

The fragility of our civilised lives has become our prison. We are too scared to act out, speak up or take a stand because this so-called life we have requires so many delicate, easily-removed aspects that we need to hold onto them, despite our desires to show the world who we are, what we actually believe in or how we really feel.

How many times have you been asked how you are going? How many times have you answered with something mediocre? “Yeah, fine. Thanks for asking,” or perhaps “Great. Yourself?” Why not something more truthful like, “Not so good today, but thanks for asking,” or maybe “You know, I’m feeling amazing today!” Because that would jar the sensibilities of the person asking. It’s not something expected. We have instilled within our society certain protocols that must be followed or we don’t know how to react. Think about it. If a stranger came up to you and handed you a flower, what would you do? Would you take it? Maybe, but you would feel that it was so far removed from the everyday that you would probably feel strange doing it.

What if a person on the street asked you to help them restrain someone you had seen assault another person? Would you help, or would that appointment you’re on your way to take priority? Maybe you’d be afraid to get hurt if the person being held tried to escape before the police arrived. Either way, you would be hesitant.

The same goes for speaking up about things we see as wrong. We are more inclined to do as little as possible to bring it into the light, not really committing ourselves to decisive action, just in case it turns against us. We have become a society so scared to act, so ready to self-censor our actions and speech, because we are holding onto the façade of a life most of us realise upon reflection is not the life we want to be living.

I’m not going to stand by and take a mediocre, safe stance on issues. I don’t want to be afraid to speak up anymore. As people were telling me when I was asking for advice regarding my last post, if someone doesn’t want to employed based on the important topics I write about (or some of the not-so-important ones), then they are probably not someone I want to be working for or with. If no one makes a stand, then the “slacktivists” amongst us will have no one to like or share.

The Australian Internet Filter.

All the cool kids are doing it, so why not me?

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Just in case you haven’t heard of what this is. Let me recap. In essence, the Australian government has already started paving the road for a mandatory internet filter of the internet for all Australian citizens. There will be a secret blacklist for sites that will be banned, which no one has access to. There is no real recourse if your site ends up on the list to get it off. There is no real disclosure on what might get your site onto this list, suffice to say the official line is: “Items refused classification”. This could anything deemed illegal, immoral or otherwise.

There’s that curly word again… Immoral. It’s a word that makes my skin curl. I am all for deciding that illegal thing should be banned. Child pornography, bestiality, those such things. But how do I know that even typing those words won’t get my site on the blacklist? But what if I have a site about polyamory? Homosexual health issues? There are some that would consider that immoral. Who is to say that what I am saying is or isn’t immoral? Who has control over the list?

Another issue that has not really been brought up has been the implications on academic internet research. Those researching potentially “suspect” subjects may find that they are not able to access such sites that contain articles concerning such things. Where will that leave our universities and other researchers?

What I am afraid of is this being just yet another extension of the Blame Game. What’s that, I hear you say? What I call the Blame Game is people suggesting the magical “someone” should that magical “something” about whatever. There is a trend that is growing in the world that we do not want to take responsibility for our own actions. Suing a major technological corporation over false advertising is one thing, but suing them if you were surfing, got dumped by a wave and ended up in a wheelchair claiming they needed to erect signs warning about the dangers of the surf is another thing. Take responsibility for your actions people!

In the same way, parents arguing that the internet has become too ubiquitous and “someone” needs to do “something” about keeping the children safe is just another attempt to forgo some hard-line parenting and discipline. I am not suggesting that you do not allow you children to use the internet at all, although if that works for you, go for it. What I am saying is educate your children on the right way to use it. Yes, that may mean NOT using the computer as a substitute for the babysitting television. Yes, that may mean actually sitting down with your children and using the computer with them. Yes, it may even mean that you have to go and educate yourself on safe internet practises. Heavens forbid you actually have to take time out of your schedule for the betterment and protection of your children! You decided to have kids. Go wild and actually be a parent to them. Stop using the magical “someone” and “something” to fix all your problems.

Why should adults be told what they can and cannot view? Australia already has some of what are viewed to be the most strict censorship guidelines in the western world. Surely we don’t need more restrictions? We seem to be making a bee-line for the ultra restrictive days of the 1930s where books were banned under the Indecent Publications Act (look up the first book to be banned: ‘Upsurge’ by J.M. Harcourt) for having communist tendencies and immoral leanings (yes, there’s that word again).

Even beyond that frightening trend is the fact that this filter will not stop future governments from banning to their own agenda. With the increasing power pressure groups such a Family First and others, developing significant say in the parliament through members we can only project that the future in one in line more and more with seemingly science-fiction films as Equilibrium and V for Vendetta. Harsh? Idealistic? You think? We see in other countries that panic spreads amongst people and they rally to a previously uncharismatic leader who finds strength in the people’s “time of need” (post 9/11 fiasco). We see that a coupe in Australian politics (K-Rudd vs Gillard) is viewed with disgust but no real outrage. We in Australia have become so terribly disconnected from our government that most are still unaware that decisions are being made in the parliament despite politicians not having read senate inquiry reports, not even waiting for them to be published before the vote is tabled!

“The concept of the Web is of universal readership.” – Tim Berners-Lee

The sad part is that the Web which runs on the internet, when invented, was never supposed to be ruled over by governments. It was supposed to be a depository for all the collective knowledge of the world. Yes, it may have gone a little out of proportion and out of control, but Tim Berners-Lee was on to a good thing when he said no government or corporation would have control over the whole web.

Make no mistake, this is a far-reaching topic that will go through unless there is a major outcry from those that our politicians supposedly have been elected to represent. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t felt very represented in the parliament of late. What can you do about it? There are a number of on line petitions and such useless ways of making yourself feel like you’ve done something, but if you rally want to do something about this, write your local member or senator a letter or email detailing what your concerns are. Call them. Make them realise that this is an actual problem that they can finally step up and act the valiant politicians just like they dreamed they could.

Want to know more about this topic? Here are a few links for you to take a look at:

The OpenNet Initiative.

The Australian Government Classification website.

The No Clean Feed website.

news.com.au: Enemy of the internet: Australia under surveillance for violating online freedoms.

Communications minister Conroy misleading public about the filter.

 

Image courtesy of Sally06 on Flickr