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Oz gov suggests world's worst copyright protection scheme

Desperate to retain internet villain of the year title

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After taking the prize of internet villain of the year for worst internet blocking proposal on the planet, the Australian Government appears determined to do the double, with what has already been described as the world’s worst comms interception scheme.

This time, the issue is copyright protection, as the government touts proposals to get all Australian ISP’s to spy on their citizens in order to monitor for copyright compliance.

The Attorney-General’s Department has just closed its request for comments on its draft of "computer network protection" amendments to the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979.

In their submission, Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) have expressed concern that "the proposed legislation provides a very broad exception to the prohibition on interception of network communications for the purposes of ensuring that a network is "appropriately used"".

They claim that this is a very broad category, and means that "all network operators in Australia will be able to monitor the substance of communications that pass over their network for compliance with their Acceptable Use Policies – the terms of which could include nearly anything".

The motivation behind this proposal appears to arise from a recent piracy trial, in which ISP iiNet defended itself in the NSW Federal Court against allegations that it breached intellectual property rights of 34 major music and movie companies.

iiNet have argued quite simply that they have no idea who is downloading what over their network – and further, that under existing Australian law, they have no justification for probing further.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has already created a stir by using a CommsDay Summit in May of this year to publicly describe this stance as "stunning" and "a classic".

However, iiNet may yet cause further embarrassment for the government by summoning the Australian state censors into court to provide evidence that, as the law stands, their interpretation of it is correct.

This is why, according to file-sharing portal, ZeroPaid, Australia is now mulling the concept of "boldly going where no other country has gone before in terms of mass communication interception".

They argue that the proposed new law would place Australia in a category more extreme, from the perspective of copyright protection than even the US or France, with its continuing proposals for a three-strikes law.

They add: "One wonders if the government has any idea what kind of task it would be to force ISPs to patrol their own networks on a packet-by-packet basis."

This law is to be debated in the Australian parliament in December of this year – so there is still plenty of time for anyone opposed to it to make their opposition public. ®

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