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Australia’s biggest IT moments of 2012

Vulture South remembers the antipodean happenings the rest of the world noticed

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2012 will end for Vulture South, The Reg’s antipodean outpost, before it does so in our other bureaux. We’re therefore in retrospective-writing mode before our colleagues have even begun to contemplate whether the boss thinks leaving the office at 2:00PM on Christmas Eve is taking the piss.

That gives us some time to explain why all Reg readers should care about antipodean goings-on, a position we’ll advance on the basis of two big court cases.

The first concerned a service called TV Now, a cunning PVR-in-the-cloud concoction dreamed up by Optus, Australia’s Singtel outpost. TV Now gave Optus mobile subscribers the chance to record free-to-air television shows and then watch them in half-hour chunks on their mobes. The recording would reside in an Optus data centre and would only ever be accessible to the subscriber that recorded it.

All of which sounds like fair use dragged into the cloud age, but for the fact Optus promoted it as a fine way to watch Australian Football and Rugby League … a nuance that saw rival telco Telstra haul it into court to defend the tens of millions it spends on online rights to the two sports.

An initial trial saw fair use rule, but on appeal Optus was punted out of the park and forced to stop the service as judges decided companies don’t enjoy the same time-shifting rights as individuals.

The second big Australian case concerned iiNet, a local internet service provider that received a great many letters from Big Content alleging its customers are dirty rotten pirates. iiNet made a nice neat pile of those letters, told the Police about them … and otherwise did nothing, arguing it just provides carriage.

Big Content argued that doing nothing was tactic authorisation of illegal downloads. iiNet countered that it could not lawfully see what its users download, or act on it. The case rumbled on for years, but in Australia’s highest court iiNet prevailed, bloodying Big Content’s nose rather nastily.

If lawyers the planet over haven’t studied those two judgements, Vulture South will be rather surprised.

We’re also pretty sure the world took note when an Australian chapter of Anonymous cracked open a telco’s forgotten CRM server and started posting redacted customer details onto the web. Anonymous did so to protest proposed data retention laws that would see all Australian’s web browsing and phone histories recorded for two years. The proposed laws once again showed why online freedom activists believe Australia’s politicians get out of bed and tape a “kick me” sign to the smalls of their backs, a belief that seems sensible given the nation’s policy to erect the free world’s most rigorous national internet filter.

That policy was jettisoned in November, when the minister responsible decided asking ISPs to block only an Interpol list of very vile smut would do the trick. He even spun the decision as a win for community consultation! The same minister also made an ass of himself by declaring his executive powers so mighty he can compel local telcos to wear red underpants on their heads.

Australia’s other internationally-watched contribution to the tech world is the National Broadband Network (NBN), the $AUD40bn-plus scheme to install an optic fibre to the door of about 90 per cent of homes and businesses. That plan proceeds at disputed pace, as politicians scrap over whether it’s running late, on time, over budget, on budget or is even needed given the prevalence of ever-faster wireless standards.

Australia also made it onto AWS’ and Rackspace’s maps this year, offering cloudy types a high-latency, low-earthquake, alternative. Australia also fired up a Parliamentary inquiry into why things cost more down under than in other parts of the world and another into whether anyone in the Apps caper is thinking of the children.

Apple Australia made headlines when iOS 6 maps couldn't find the Sydney Apple Store. Later in the year, Police recommended against using the app after it sent tourists into a dry desert when they sought out a substantial town.

We'll stick with Apple for our last item, a report of the iPhone 5’s Australian launch. We hit journalistic gold in this one, as one of those in the queue for the new phone labelled her actions “superficial and pretentious”. The same report also featured the video below, which depicts Apple Store staff indulging in a weird pre-launch ritual.

Watch Video

From all at Vulture South, a very merry festive season and splendid 2013. &reg

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