Australian Government Holds Secret Anti-Piracy Meetings; The Public Is Not Invited
from the so-20th-century dept
As Techdirt noted recently, policy-making behind closed doors is no longer acceptable. Until the end of the 20th century, it was hard for the general public to make their views heard, and so governments didn't really bother asking them. But that's no longer the case: the Internet has blown government wide open, and there is now no excuse for not consulting as widely as possible -- including the public -- before passing legislation or signing treaties.
That's a lesson that the Australian government seems not to have learned yet, judging by the following story:
The Federal Government has reportedly held a second closed door meeting held between the content and telecommunications industries to address the issue of illegal file sharing on the Internet through avenues such as BitTorrent.
The first meeting took place at the end of last year, and is part of the content industries' attempt to circumvent the Australian courts' refusal to order ISPs to act as a private copyright police force.
According to another report, the argument now seems to be mainly about who will pay for a proposed "graduated response" (three-strikes) scheme:
one source familiar with the discussions said local film industry representatives are concerned that the cost of operating graduated response schemes is too high.
Never mind the fact that the content industries not only want this kind of extra-judicial punishment, they want it for free: what's really appalling here is that "three strikes" seems to have been settled upon without any qualms about whether it is fair or would work, or whether it might be a good idea to conduct some research to find out. It's the usual evidence-free policy making that has bedevilled this area for decades. But that's hardly surprising, since the most important stakeholder here -- the public -- wasn't invited to the meetings to offer its views on moves that would have a major impact on using the Internet, on privacy and on civil liberties.
Another source said the content industry’s response was to try to push the cost of managing infringement notices -- and an appeals mechanism for customers who felt they had been wrongly accused -- onto internet service providers.
That's not only unacceptable, it's extremely unwise in view of what the Australian government plans to do next:
If the content and internet industries reach agreement on a scheme to deal with copyright infringement, the Attorney-General’s department is expected to put a draft proposal out for public consultation.
Given the way that such a draft proposal is being drawn up, any public consultation is likely to be seen as a sham, since the terms of the debate have already been set. And when the draft with a few token but irrelevant tweaks finally becomes law, guess how much public support that is going to have?