Australian Parliament Moves Copyright Amendment Out Of Committee and Into Law

from the concerns?--what-concerns? dept

As we have been discussing over the past few months, Australia has been considering updating its copyright law from one which does site-blocking with judicial oversight to one which does site-blocking, mirror-blocking without judicial oversight, search results blocking, and expands the definition of the types of sites to be blocked from those with the primary "purpose" of infringement to those with the primary "effect" being infringement. These changes came with concerns in tow, both from government officials and tech companies, and it's understandable why. Any time the government looks to lessen its own oversight in the interest of making it easier for corporate interests to censor the internet for the common citizen, it creates a situation practically begging for abuse with the principal effect being dampening the primary purpose of the internet as a communications tool. The concerns raised over this change in the law focused on those very things, while also highlighting how the copyright industries have been touting the site-blocking already in place as a success.

But, as is too often the case, the Australian government has hand-waved those concerns with claims that nebulous "safeguards" are in place to prevent abuse and recommended going ahead with the changes to the law.

Yesterday, the Senate’s Environment and Communications Legislation Committee published the results of its inquiry. Those hoping for an additional dissenting voice will be disappointed.

“The committee is of the view that the amendments proposed by the bill are likely to improve the operation of the injunctive scheme in section 115A of the Copyright Act, and represent a measured and proportionate response to concerns identified by stakeholders in relation to the operation of that scheme,” the report reads. “In this respect, the committee also notes that the majority of submissions received by the committee supported the bill and recommended that it be passed unamended.”

After noting that the expansion for blocking mirror sites without judicial approval could be abused, the committee goes on to say it's all under control.

“[T]he committee is of the view that the measures are appropriately circumscribed. In particular, the committee notes the evidence that the Court would maintain ultimate oversight over these injunctions, as well as the evidence that there must a sufficient nexus between the online location covered by the original injunction and the location to which the order is expanded,” the report reads.

In other words, way back in the distance, the courts are ultimately still in charge of the injunctions, somehow making the fact that the expanded injunctions are approved outside of the court all good. And, on top of that, none of this will be abused because rightsholders will have to rely on good evidence for the expanded injunctions, despite the fact that rightsholders' grasp on what good evidence is has always been laughable. Again, all of this is pitched as a way to get site-blocking in place more speedily, which sets off all the obvious justice alarm bells.

On the search-blocking portion of the amendment, the committee relies on a claim that, essentially, Google is helping people infringe copyright.

Finally, on forcing search engines to purge their results of previously-blocked sites, the Committee again acknowledges objections from those who feel such measures are unnecessary. Again, however, the report dismisses the concerns, noting that search engines may play a role in both infringement and enforcement of copyright so the measures are “appropriate.”

Except that this is nonsense industry drivel, and always has been. Search engines don't play "a role" in infringement. They play a role in returning relevant search results to the public. They're address books, of a kind, and search engines no more play a role in infringing copyright by returning search results than address books play a role in drug use by listing where a flop house might be. If that is what the committee is relying on to approve a copyright amendment with valid opposition and concern, it sure doesn't make one confident in the rest of its assessment.

It was on the back of these nebulous claims of safeguards and shaky claims about how search engines work that the amendment was moved out of committee and quickly passed by the Australian Parliament. And it was announced in a manner that appears designed to irritate those of us who actually know what copyright infringement is and is not.

Announcing the adoption of the amendments by Parliament today, the Government said that the Bill will give rightsholders enhanced ability to fight copyright infringement. Minister for Communications and the Arts Mitch Fifield noted that there will now be “less room” for pirates to circumvent Australia’s existing measures.

“The Government has zero tolerance for online piracy. It is theft, and damaging to our creative economy and local creators. We are committed to protecting Australia’s creative industries and the world-class content we produce every year,” Minister Fifield said. “The passage of our legislation today sends a strong message to online pirates that Australia does not tolerate online theft.”

I actually wouldn't have thought it possible to include the "copyright is theft" fallacy not once, but twice, in a three sentence statement on passing a bill that does nothing to stop theft, but will almost certainly be an avenue for abuse by copyright industry groups that have always been willing to slam open a door after its been cracked an inch. The only silver lining in all of this is the amendment comes with a two year review period, after which the government will have the opportunity to make further changes if such abuses occur.

And they almost certainly will occur, though I would expect the government to perform its same hand-waving trick when those concerns arise two years from now as well.


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  • identicon
    Dan Under, 29 Nov 2018 @ 4:28am

    No judicial oversight? Sorry, our bad.

    “The Government has zero tolerance for online piracy. It is theft, and damaging to our creative economy and local creators. We are committed to protecting Australia’s creative industries and the world-class content we produce every year,”

    except this appears to be at the behest of NOT local "creators"

    I guess they had to take it out of judicial oversight because the High Court is too busy deciding Section 44 issues https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Section_44_of_the_Constitution_of_Australia
    to be bothered with trivial things like due process.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Nov 2018 @ 4:37am

      Re: No judicial oversight? Sorry, our bad.

      except this appears to be at the behest of NOT local "creators"

      It real purpose is to protect the business models of publishers, who benefit if they can select a few creators for publication, and have the works of the rest languish on hard drives until it is lost when the drive fails.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Nov 2018 @ 6:58am

    Re: erp services

    Why are commercial comments, actually commercials pumping scams, even posted under flagged?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Nov 2018 @ 7:25am

    The Government has zero tolerance for online piracy. It is theft

    They have a funny definition of theft. If they are going to do that, why not just call it murder?

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

  • icon
    Cdaragorn (profile), 29 Nov 2018 @ 7:37am

    "The Government has zero tolerance for"

    The instant anyone says "zero tolerance" I'm convinced that they've tossed any concept of justice out the window in favor of their own personal biases on whatever subject they're talking about. It's always used as an attempt to sound "hard" on some "bad" subject but only demonstrates complete lack of care for the nuances that always exist.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Nov 2018 @ 8:17am

    One of the problems with zero tolerance is that it can view any website or video clip as possibly infringing.
    Videos are taken down from youtube everyday because the filter cannot recognise fair use or parody .
    eg game reviews that contain clips of game play .
    educational videos on history or politics that show
    clips from news reports .
    The filters just search for files containing
    audio or video owned by big corporations .
    Theft is taking someone that belongs to someone
    else .
    If i rob a car someone is a loss ,they cannot drive ,
    they have to buy another car .
    If i copy a mp3 from a cd they still have the song ,they still have ownership of the master
    audio files .
    It would be very sad if a big site like reddit
    was blocked from australia because some forums may have posted
    links to websites that may have some infringing content ,

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Nov 2018 @ 10:45am

    I would love to see how much money in total the Australian politicians received under the table to make this Copyright Industry dream come true. Seems all laws these days are written by crooks for crooks. Hard to imagine it getting any worse, but I have faith in the ability of crooks to screw things up endlessly in return for a tax free income.

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

  • icon
    Hugo S Cunningham (profile), 29 Nov 2018 @ 11:40am

    Any partisan divide on this issue in Australia?

    Australia is currently ruled by the right-of-center coalition. Has the left-of-center opposition voiced any disagreement with this copyright travesty, or are they just as bad?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Nov 2018 @ 2:39pm

      Re: Any partisan divide on this issue in Australia?

      Just because the LNP are hard right doesn't mean the ALP are left of centre. They didn't raise a peep when the TPP passed, and won't do so oon this either.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Nov 2018 @ 3:19pm

    If you plan to travel to Australia, you can avoid this censorship while you are down there by setting up a VPN on your home network, before you go.

    You just then log on to the VPN on your home network and use that. This can also be done so that you can access US only sites, while you are down there, using your home VPN. This does not break the law in either Australia or the USA.

    I have done that on road trips to Canada and Mexico. When I want to listen to iHeart, while I am driving, I just have my phone log on to the VPN on my home computer, and then I can acess iHeart, as if I were in the United States. Doing this does not break Canadian, American, or Mexican laws.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Injunction Junction, 29 Nov 2018 @ 7:28pm

    Oh, the pirates mutter: "Doom. Doom. Doom!"

    Turns out that massive site blocking WILL be implemented, just as I predicted. You can't even console yourselves this time with "easily bypassed" because streamlines the blocking, no more judging needed once that determination has been made.

    Those who make content have ALL the rights, kids. You pirates are simply stealing. -- Of course up there is the usual "they still have the whole file" stupidity.

    It's funny as hell watching Techdirt attenuate, all its bubbles burst, you kids so down you can't even rant. Remember, if it suddenly disappears, I'll be laughing. All your years of stupid ad hom and attempts to block me will make it the more enjoyable.

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

    • identicon
      Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 29 Nov 2018 @ 8:37pm

      Re: You pirates are simply stealing.

      Why not “simply” send in the cops, then?

      “Stealing” is supposed to be a crime, right?

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 29 Nov 2018 @ 10:57pm

        Re: Re: You pirates are simply stealing.

        Using my home VPN to bypass region restriction, as I like to do on road trips to Mexico to I can listen to iHeart and other US-only sites, while I am driving, does not break laws in either Mexico or the United States, so I am not stealing when I do that on road trips to Mexico

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Nov 2018 @ 1:09pm

    The LNP, the best political party corporate money can buy.

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


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