Australian Gov't Chooses 'Consumer Advocate' For Secret Anti-Piracy Meetings: The Chairman Of The Copyright Council

from the um... dept

You may recall, that the Australian government, the big entertainment industry players and some ISPs have been meeting down in Australia to come up with a plan to "fight piracy." Of course, the meetings have been so secret that the government won't even reveal who attended them, claiming that it would not be in the public interest. Considering that copyright law itself is supposed to be about the public interest, that seems preposterous, but despite the criticism, the government vowed to continue hosting these secret meetings. However, in a nod to the criticism, they apparently added a "consumer advocate." Just one problem: it turns out that the head of the consumer advocacy group invited to the meeting, the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network, just so happens to also be the chairperson of the Australian Copyright Council, a group which has advocated for stronger copyright laws for decades.
The group has an active role in influencing copyright policy in Australia, and this role sees it advocate strongly for the rights of the creative industries. For example, in a submission to the Federal Government’s Convergence Review earlier this year, the Copyright Council argued that under proposed changes to Australia’s Safe Harbour scheme, it was an important element that Australian Internet service providers should “adopt and reasonably implement policies to avoid liability for authorisation” of copyright infringement, “including termination, in appropriate circumstances, of the accounts of repeat infringers”.
That certainly raises significant questions about just how focused this group really is on consumers' best interests, rather than the legacy entertainment industry's best interests. The report at Delimiter notes that this guy, law professor Michael Fraser, has been involved in multiple other copyright-related issues, including running a copyright collection society:
Fraser also has an extensive background in copyright protection in general in Australia. He has been a director of the Australian Copyright Council since 2001, and was also a founder and CEO of the Copyright Agency Limited for 21 years. CAL is an organisation which seeks to collect copyright fees and royalties for copyright holders in Australia, including journalists (disclosure: Delimiter publisher Renai LeMay has received fees from CAL for re-prints of articles he wrote when employed by the Australian Financial Review).
It's pretty cynical for the Australian government -- and others involved in these secret meetings -- to position themselves as being more open to "consumer advocates" when this is what they end up with. As Delimiter notes:
It’s hard to see what bigger conflict of interest there could be in these talks, than for the chair of the consumer group attending the talks to also be representing the creative industries, and I feel very strongly that Michael Fraser must recuse himself immediately from attending the talks held by the Attorney-General’s Department.

Fraser’s defence in this case would no doubt be that he is attending the talks in his role as director of UTS’ Communications Law Centre. However, it is my strong personal opinion that that it is impossible to separate Fraser’s role at UTS from his other roles chairing both the Australian Copyright Council and ACCAN. This is the same person, after all.
Of all the possible groups representing consumer interests, the government just so happens to choose this one?

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. identicon
    Yogi, 8 Jun 2012 @ 5:24am


    Has Arafat returned to life and is running Australia? This reminds me so much of how he used to run the PLO and later Gaza and the West Bank.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    abc gum, 8 Jun 2012 @ 5:30am

    Conflict of Interest mitigation is an interesting topic, perhaps the Aussies should discuss that prior to conducting their clandestine meetings. It certainly would make their public relations efforts much easier.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Jun 2012 @ 5:42am

    this sounds to me like what is happening in the Mega case, from the point of view that something is supposedly being done to appease legitimate concerns with the process and the attendees, when in actual fact, it's just further smoke and mirror actions to look as if there is compliance and that they are being helpful, honest and open. senior Aussi politicians must be getting some serious 'encouragement' to still hold secret meetings, but to then add this guy from the copyright sector, making out he is representing the public's interests is really taking the piss!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. icon
    gorehound (profile), 8 Jun 2012 @ 5:50am

    Same thing that happens in USA and Elsewhere.Rich Politicians and their Corporate Masters are everywhere.
    They are the Cancer
    The People are the Cure
    Wake Up People and Use Your Brain and Eyes !!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    Ima Fish (profile), 8 Jun 2012 @ 6:10am

    "That certainly raises significant questions about just how focused this group really is on consumers' best interests..."

    You're kidding right? This doesn't raise any such questions. This answers such questions. Definitively.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Jun 2012 @ 7:12am

    The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil ... for good men to do nothing.

    The fact that any and all of these worldwide discussions are conducted in secret (only enemies hide) should be enough to tell us that the system is utterly corrupt and needs to be destroyed and its participants decreed enemies of mankind and dealt with accordingly.

    Be forewarned all - these people are evil and are out to enslave you even more.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Digitari, 8 Jun 2012 @ 7:37am


    I worked in the USMC as a classified Message Clerk, one of ,y job duties was to make sure any classified documents that we produced met certain criteria to become classified.

    I have yet to see anything in the US or down under that meets that criteria, granted I do not have "all the info" but I just don't see it..

    By what standards are they classified?

    The criteria of classification in and of it'self is NOT classified, so it should be available, at least in the US..

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    The eejit (profile), 8 Jun 2012 @ 7:43am


    At which point, we should be able to definitively respond by ignoring all such laws. As is our democratic right.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Jun 2012 @ 7:58am

    Re: Re:

    Deciding your own course of action is a birthright, valid anywhere in the world. Effects and consequences may vary state to state.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Jun 2012 @ 8:32am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Which is why ignoring these bad laws isn't the solution. Abolishing them is.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Big Al, 8 Jun 2012 @ 9:36am

    Conflict of Interest

    He has in fact recused himself due to the widespread outcry over the appointment (Thanks ZDNet for bringing it to evryone's attention) and his deputy (no known big content affiliation) has now taken his place - although what good that will do I don't know.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Mason Wheeler, 8 Jun 2012 @ 9:43am

    Re: Arafat?

    I was thinking more along the lines of Poo-Bah.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    RonKaminsky (profile), 8 Jun 2012 @ 10:40am

    Example of AU copyright-related legislation backfiring

    A relatively recent example of Australian legislation in this field not working properly: rcial-independent-visual-arts-sector/

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    The eejit (profile), 8 Jun 2012 @ 11:06am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Sadly, we can't kill stupid. We need it later.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. icon
    DanZee (profile), 8 Jun 2012 @ 11:19am

    Will Wheaton

    It reminds me of the story about Will Wheaton visiting Congress when it was trying to pass SOPA and PIPA. Congressmen told him he was the first person they met who was against the laws. Apparently, Congress does nothing but meet with lobbyists all day, every day and it's not even aware that someone might be against the laws it passes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. icon
    Pickle Monger (profile), 8 Jun 2012 @ 1:24pm

    Wait, what?

    Uhm... this is kind of like having Scott Walker represent the interests of unionised labour during a secret meeting with the Koch brothers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Crooked Labor govt, 8 Jun 2012 @ 3:07pm

    Crooked Labor govt

    It's no surprise given the current Labor government in Australia who seem intent on doing anything their American masters tell them. Julia Gillard, Stephen Conroy, two Labor flunkies who should be in jail for conspiring to defraud the Australian public. What a joke.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Aileron, 9 Jun 2012 @ 1:52pm

    Australian governments just love to suck up to the big boys

    sounds pretty typical for Australian governments, they care more about being in with the big boys than contributing to their own public. One of the most control freak authority loving countries I've ever visited, kind of strange given their origins.

    The only rights I ever saw in Aus is the right of the government to fine you or control you for just about anything. They even tried to have government regulation fees for effing psychics and mediums! Land of the great dipstick.

    In the end who cares what a tiny little population at the bottom of the world thinks about anything, they get too much press for such a small country.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Jun 2012 @ 3:51pm

    ''control freak authority loving countries' and ''Australia who seem intent on doing anything their American masters tell them' :

    We have seen evidence of this based on our research on the changing landscape of IP in the last 3 yrs. As an example, the head of human resources also known as the Diretor General of The UN organisation dealing with intelllectual property, WIPO, in the last 6 months have hired 3 senior American officals. And the most recent being the former Assistant Register from the copyright office, Library of Congress. This signals to a very American thrust to the Copyright system. We leave you to guess in which direction.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Aileron, 9 Jun 2012 @ 5:17pm

    What a modern western secretive control freak country looks like from the outside.

    Perhaps they're going to use Aus as a model for other corporate government regimes. Their economy is still growing at over 4%, they have a tiny gov debt and their unemployment rate is the envy of the oecd at near 5% They have free healthcare and wide social welfare programs for single mothers, gays and indigenous people, but no one else... during the GFC in 2008 Their PM gave everyone $1000 to spend instead of cutting back.

    Of course, they don't have a bill or rights for their citizens, its still a colonial monarchy with the UK queen as its head and believe it or not, voting is compulsory in any government election, they fine or even jail you for not voting! If you don't mind that sort destruction to your civil liberties, then its probably a great place to live. As many immigrants from Africa, Asia and the poor parts of Europe escaping bad their own trash economies will tell you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Jack, 11 Jun 2012 @ 9:55am


    Social welfare programmes for 'gays'? What on Earth are you talking about? Where are these social programmes and how many boys do I have to kiss to get to them?

    I am joking, of course, there are no social programmes for gay people. Alas.

    I also fail to see how compulsory voting entails "destruction to [sic] your civil liberties". In what kind of warped conception of human rights is 'freedom from voting' an essential civil liberty?

    Lastly, Australia is not a 'colonial monarchy', whatever that is. It's a fully independent country - the UK queen is not our head of state. The Queen of Australia is our head of state. Just so happens to be the same woman. And we're trying to dump her - the old PM sabotaged our referendum.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. icon
    Anthony Harris (profile), 12 Jun 2012 @ 3:10am

    This was farcical but he has stood down as consumer advocate for the talks and will no longer attend.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: I Invented Email
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads


Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.