Australian Govt.: Just Kidding On That Whole Safe Harbors Reform Thing, Guys
from the lobbying-works dept
It was just last week that we discussed the pleasant news that Australia’s Prime Minister was backing the idea of reforming the country’s safe harbor laws, which are far out of line with much of the world as the result of poor wording. The whole thing can be basically summarized thusly: in Australia, safe harbor protections only apply to commercial ISPs, as opposed to service providers like websites or institutions that offer internet access, because someone decided to use the term “carriage service providers” in the law as opposed to simply “service providers.” Essentially everyone agrees this was done in error as opposed to intentionally, yet it’s been decades and nobody has bothered fixing the law.
Until some members of the government revived an attempt to do so and got the Prime Minister’s support. Doing so would have put Australian law on equal footing with the EU and American safe harbor provisions, meaning that service providers generally couldn’t be scapegoated for the actions of a third party. You know, holding the actual people culpable of a crime accountable instead of the service provider.
Well, that sane approach was no match for lobbying dollars, it seems, as the Australian government is yanking the safe harbor reform section out of its copyright bill entirely.
The Australian government has dropped plans to extend safe harbours from a new piece of legislation that will amend the country’s copyright laws. The Australian government had planned to bring the country’s safe harbour rules more in line with those in the US and Europe. However, the local media and entertainment industries hit out at that proposal, pointing out that the wider safe harbour had proven controversial in America and the European Union, and that moves were afoot in the latter to limit safe harbour protection for user-upload platforms.
With all that in mind, lobbyists for the content owners argued, a rigorous review should be undertaken before any changes to Australian safe harbour rules are considered by lawmakers. Yet the safe harbour reform hadn’t been subject to a proper consultation like the other proposals in the Copyright Amendment Bill.
Because it’s simple morality: you don’t blame someone who didn’t commit an illegal action. On top of that, safe harbor provisions in America have only been held as controversial by lawsuit-happy lawyers and entertainment companies that see a potential profit center in service providers. After all, suing individuals is both difficult and a PR nightmare. Suing faceless websites or schools? Not so much.
Now the lobbyist-puppets in the government are pitching the removal as a way to have “evidence-based hearings” on the safe harbor proposals, except it should go without saying that evidence isn’t often the basis of anything that comes out of entertainment industry lobbyists to begin with. Between inflated piracy statistics, inflated impact of copyright on inflated industries, and inflated claims about dollars lost, who but someone with their hand out even looks to the entertainment industry for any kind of valid analysis on any of this?
Besides: the whole safe harbor question has arisen from a miswording in the law. It seems that low of a hurdle to reform ought not need public hearings to leap over it.