Oz opposition backs the 'regulatory hallucinogen' of anti-piracy laws

Vote for what you hate is a sure-fire winner, right?

It looks like Australia's proposed expansion to piracy-blocking will become law, with the opposition Labor party deciding to support the bill.

Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus announced the Australian Labor party's support for the bill in the country's parliament yesterday, saying: “When last in government and over the last five years of opposition, Labor has been working to support sensible changes to our copyright laws to ensure that they remain fit for purpose in protecting our creative industries and our artists.”

Dreyfus noted that pirate sites are generally hosted in jurisdictions that put them out of reach of Australia, making ISP-level blocks the only way to stop locals accessing their content.

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He also reiterated the government's concern at so-called “cyberlocker sites”, file-share locations “frequently used for copyright infringement through file sharing of music, movies and TV shows”. Because it's “difficult to prove” these sites are primarily for infringement, they fell outside the current regime, so “the addition of a primary effect test will bring such sites within the scheme but without unduly widening its scope.”

Other provisions of the legislation set to be waved through include flexible injunctions, so rights-holders can go after mirror sites that spring up when a site is blocked at the ISP level; and the ability to send judicial missives to the likes of Google, demanding that pirate destinations be de-ranked in searches.

Even Labor's Ed Husic, long a critic of the failings of rights-holders, swung in behind the bill while adding that “but the problem is that the bloated, greedy, resistant-to-change rights holders will always refuse to reform in this space.

What we are providing for ... is a form of regulatory hallucinogen

“Copyright reform is used as their way to shield themselves from the modern era, to shield themselves from new ways of doing things.”

Calling piracy a symptom of market failure, Husic added: “What we are providing for with these types of bills, which the rights holders all champion, support and claim credit for, is a form of regulatory hallucinogen, where they think that, if they get this type of regulatory reform through, piracy will disappear”.

Survey: We hate crypto-busting laws

Complain-but-acquiesce is a strategy Labor has followed before (for example, when data retention was being debated), which sets a depressing precedent for the crypto-busting Assistance and Access bill, currently working its way through a Senate Committee.

The Alliance for a Safe and Secure Internet is hoping it can swing the debate – or at least apply some extra pressure – with a survey e-mailed to journalists overnight.

Conducted by political pollster ReachTEL, with a sample of 2,028, the survey claimed 84.8 per cent of respondents don't want the government's crime-fighting measures to weaken online security, “nor make it easier for criminals and terrorists to cause further harm to everyday Australians”; and 74.2 per cent worry that increased cyber-surveillance could put Australians' data at risk.

“A significant majority [80.9%] of people asked are concerned about the powers implied in the Encryption Bill,” the survey claimed.

The alliance first emerged early this month, with well-heeled backers like Telstra, Amazon, Facebook, and Google alongside human rights advocates and local industry lobbies. The group hit the ground running, with ReachTEL conducting the phone survey on October 4 and 5.

Spokesperson Lizzy O'Shea of Digital Rights Watch said: “We continue to call for the Bill to be rejected in its current form as it represents a danger to our cybersecurity.” ®




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