Australian Government Proposes New Copyright Law: Basically Hollywood's Wishlist

from the australia's-sopa dept

We’ve been covering the discussion around copyright reform down in Australia for a while, and it’s continuing to get worse and worse. As you may recall, after a long and detailed process, involving careful input from a variety of stakeholders on all sides of the equation, the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) came out with a set of proposals that were actually pretty good, including things like introducing fair use to Australia.

Of course, rather than pay attention to this detailed and thoughtful process, the current Attorney General, George Brandis, decided to only listen to Hollywood. This created quite a telling discussion when Senator Scott Ludlam asked Brandis if he had consulted any consumer rights groups or other copyright experts concerning his copyright plans, and Brandis refused to answer, instead getting angry and insisting that Hollywood’s interest is the public interest. Brandis also claimed — totally incorrectly — that Australia has no laws against online piracy and is “the worst offender of any country in the world when it comes to online piracy.” That’s simply bogus, and appears to just be a Hollywood talking point.

Given all that, it was fully expected that Brandis would basically obey Hollywood’s orders — especially given that the main discussions he’d been having came with the “Australian Screen Association,” which is a rebranded version of AFACT, which a Wikileaks State Department cable revealed was 100% controlled by Hollywood interests in the US.

And, indeed, Brandis has delivered his gift proposal to (or, should we say from?) Hollywood. It involves three main proposals, but the big one is overturning the important iiNet decision that highlighted that ISPs are protected from liability for users infringing, because they’re not the proactive party. In other words, under that ruling, ISPs can’t be forced to be copyright cops. Brandis’ plan would wipe that out, requiring ISPs to spy on user activity and try to block any “bad stuff” from happening, or they would face liability:

The Government believes that even where an ISP does not have a direct power to prevent a person from doing a particular infringing act, there may still be reasonable steps that can be taken by the ISP to discourage or reduce online copyright infringement.

Extending authorisation liability is essential to ensuring the existence of an effective legal framework that encourages industry cooperation and functions as originally intended, and is consistent with Australia’s international obligations.

“Extending authorization liability” sounds so polite. But what it really means is “making ISPs into copyright cops” and encouraging them to spy on and block all sorts of activity, legal or not, to avoid liability from massive copyright infringement lawsuits (like the one against iiNet). Also note the famous “consistent with international obligations” line. We’ve been saying for nearly a decade now, whenever anyone brings up “international obligations,” you know they’re being intellectually dishonest.

The second part of the proposal is basically Australia’s version of SOPA. It would allow for website blocking of “infringing overseas sites.” And it would be like the original SOPA, with a “private right of action,” allowing entire websites to be blocked on the say so of the copyright holder. A court would have to approve it, but it would likely be an incredibly one-sided hearing, as it’s unlikely foreign websites will travel to Australia.

A similar provision in Australian law could enable rights holders to take action to block access to a website offering infringing material without the need to establish that a particular ISP has authorised an infringement.

The final piece of the plan appears to be an attempt to buy off internet companies that are likely to oppose this plan, in that it extends safe harbor protections to more of them. Basically, this is a cynical ploy to try to split the obvious opposition of this plan. Without this, it would clearly be both internet companies and internet access providers (ISPs) opposing. But here the idea is that if they barely extend a few safe harbor protections to more internet companies, maybe those guys won’t oppose this effort as strongly.

Either way, this is pretty much what was expected. It’s an evidence-free proposal based on the fear mongering claims of Hollywood, and an attempt to turn ISPs into Hollywood’s personal copyright cops, spying on your usage and doing anything to block infringement, even if that also wipes out plenty of legitimate speech as well.

Thankfully, Senator Ludlam (who exposed Brandis’ unwillingness to even answer whether he met with consumer rights groups) has already spoken out about this proposal:

Such a move would unleash a wave of lawsuits as giant film and TV studios re-open legal action to try and get Australian ISPs to act as ?copyright police’ in penalising their customers for online copyright infringement.

The paper also discusses a range of other options for tackling the issue, including forcing ISPs to block websites, sending users warning notices, and even limiting the broadband connections of those who are only suspected of pirating content online.

What the discussion paper doesn’t contain is any attempt to address the real reason why Australians pirate films and TV shows online – the ongoing refusal of giant corporations to make their content available in an affordable and timely fashion.

Just getting access to watch HBO’s popular Game of Thrones show can cost Australians up to $50 a month – and the show is only available week by week from one source: pay TV giant Foxtel, which is co-owned by Telstra and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

The Greens believe the Abbott Government is trying to protect an outdated dinosaur of a business model where a small group of mega-corporations control all access to the content Australians want to access. This isn’t a surprise, given the hundreds of thousands of dollars film and TV studios have recently donated to the Coalition.

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Comments on “Australian Government Proposes New Copyright Law: Basically Hollywood's Wishlist”

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John Fenderson (profile) says:

Red flag words

is consistent with Australia’s international obligations

Whenever you see these words (regardless of which nation is uttering them), that means that international agreements have been used as a backdoor to forcing the nation to change its laws.

For us in the US, keep an eye out for the phrase (it pops up far more often than you might think) and remember that it’s proof of the fact that when we’re told that trade agreements won’t cause law to change, we’re being lied to.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Red flag words

The shills around here kept insisting that passing these international agreements won’t result in pressure to countries to change their laws. Since then that’s been proven wrong over and over and over. So where are these shills to defend what they used to say? I know they’re still reading this. WHERE ARE YOU YOU DISHONEST SHILLS!!!! SPEAK TO US!!!!

Candescence (profile) says:

Well, it’s a good thing the senate is practically rigged against the government. The opposition only needs Labor, the Greens and three more senators to shoot down anything that comes up to vote. If Palmer United or another three senators give the government the finger, the bill won’t pass.

Palmer United is basically a wild card, though, so who knows what Palmer himself will do. He’s a populist, but he’s also virtually impossible to predict. Though it’s likely that more reliable senators like Xenophon will vote against the bill.

rapnel (profile) says:

i x 5

Some folks have a very keen interest in melding government and copyright today thus restricting and maintaining oversight of all communication. They’re trying to imply, by no uncertain means, that what we create does not belong to us and certainly does not belong to all of us, aren’t they? The mere existence of copyright is now wedging itself into our communications streams because you might infringe.

Fuck that. Copyright, as we all know and love it today, is not compatible. The human race can not be downgraded to comply, sorry. Fuck off.

Anonymous Coward says:

has none of these democratic governments, elected to do their best for their country and the people, not realised that what they are doing is giving the planet, not just their individual country, over to be run by an entertainment industry and that even worse, an entertainment industry that relies on make believe to exist? then add in that ordinary people are being bankrupted, ruined and jailed to protect this make believe industry? and dont forget that there have even been deaths because of what these make believe industries have done, with governmental and law systems approval. how the fuck can a whole society be so stupid as to allow something like this to happen in the first place, let alone creep around and rule the globe like an incurable disease? unbelievable!!

Anonymous Coward says:

I wish the government would only listen to me. Then they’d triple the taxes on everyone else and cut mine to negative 1,000,000%.

They’d be totally justified in doing this, because I would be a great representative of the public. And clearly the public wants to pay triple the current rate while giving me a giant handout.

Anonymous Coward says:

I wonder if losses incurred by hollywood by infringement costs more than the copyright lobby and attorney fees , It amazes me how copyright alone has become a business within a business, I bet they’d triple their income if they would just step back and realize how much they’re really spending on this single issue.

Hollywood says:

We bought Brandis. Who else wants our money?

Its no secret in Australia that George Brandis’s opinion was bought and paid for by the entertainment lobby. Donations, trips, probably cash. Australian politicians are certainly known for being corrupt, and George Brandis certainly is on the take and taking direction from his puppet masters in Hollywood.

Whatever (profile) says:


I love cherry picking “facts”.

Brandis also claimed — totally incorrectly — that Australia has no laws against online piracy and is “the worst offender of any country in the world when it comes to online piracy.” That’s simply bogus, and appears to just be a Hollywood talking point.

Neatly, you link to an article that provides one side. However, if you look at that article’s “source” material, you get a different headline:

Australians may be among the world’s biggest consumers of illegally downloaded video content but they are also among the most avid consumers of legal content.

Read more:

See, the problem is you can be both – they can be big consumers of legal material, but also huge pirates. One does not exclude the other.

Whatever (profile) says:

Re: Re: bogus?

It’s purposely misleading, because there is no clear comparison between one and the other. Australians may buy a lot of content, but they also pirate a lot. Now much is a lot in each case isn’t really shown, so we have no idea if it’s 1:1, 1:100 or 1:1000000 ratio.

So a “big amount” of legal content may not even be equal to the downloads of a single popular TV program.

Australian public says:

Can we see unredacted logs of Brandis's internet history

if you’re a politician, and you make promises, there should be ramifications to breaking them. For example, we’re currently hearing various politicians/loudmouths claiming the Great Barrier Reef won’t be damaged by the wide scale dredging and dumping they’ve allowed, or that fracking is ok, that safeguards and laws are in place, blah blah blah. I’d like to see them say “if it does get polluted, I was totally wrong, the scientists/public were right” they forfeit their pension and/or behavioral bond they must lodge after being elected. Like many of Brandis’s conspirators in other countries, especially the USA, Hollywood promises a cushy high paid “job” as a lobbyist once he leaves office, where he’ll work for 3 years, collect a lot of dough, do nothing but try to influence his old government buddies to pass his laws, drink, travel and schmooze. Meanwhile collecting his government pension and all the other perks. We all get screwed….again

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