Thursday, February 4, 2010

Copyright theft or Big Brother by stealth?

The ABC reports that “the Australian film and television industry has lost a case against a major internet service provider whose customers downloaded pirated movies and television programs” - Hooray!
The legal action followed a five-month investigation by the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft.

The companies claimed iiNet infringed copyright by failing to stop users engaging in illegal file sharing.

Justice Dennis Cowdroy said it was "impossible" to find against iiNet for what its users did.

Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft executive director Neil Gane said he was disappointed with the decision.

Mr Gane said he was confident that the Federal Government would now review the laws surrounding copyright infringement.

The entertainment companies compiled their evidence by hiring two investigators to subscribe to iiNet and then begin trading files using different BitTorrent networks.

They kept track of what movies and TV shows they were sharing, when they downloaded them, and the ID numbers of the computers they were sharing these files with.

My opinion: Media companies should not be trying to penalize end users, or their ISP for sharing files, particularly when the media companies actually took part in the sharing.

Sharing files online should be no more illegal than permitting a neighbour to view a purchased DVD disc. If an individual was charging for the property of a media company, that’s theft, but even then why pursue the ISP that individual subscribes to?

I find Neil Gane’s expectation that Government will now review laws, very troublesome, I wonder what inspires his confidence.

In readiness of the fourth coming mandatory internet filtering, laws have already been written into the Broadcasting Services Act which obligates ISPs to execute “denial of access” for anything identified as “prohibited content”.

And then on Feb 2nd 2010, there is this - Senate passes net interception Bill.

This is all seems to be pointing to the painting of a disturbing image for the manner in which people will access (or not access) the net in future.

Although Hillary Clinton recently denounced internet censorship: “Countries that restrict free access to information or violate the basic rights of Internet users risk walling themselves off from the progress of the next century”, in truth the grimy finger prints from the hand of big brother being smeared all over the internet in Australia, would appear to be originating from US government policy.

Angus Kidman of reports:
The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) spearheaded by the US government, which apparently doesn’t think its existing draconian proposals in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (which Australian copyright law largely mirrors, thanks to the 2004 Free Trade Agreement) go far enough.

The proposal has been debated at a series of meetings between stakeholders since 2007, and while confirmed information is fairly scant, earlier leaked documents suggest that as well as covering physical piracy, ACTA will try and enforce copyright in the digital realm, meaning the same kind of ISP-level meddling that’s associated with current internet censorship proposals in Australia.

Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade:
“The participants in ACTA negotiations do not intend for the ACTA to target individuals, the privacy of individuals or the property of individuals where those individuals are not engaged in commercial scale trade in counterfeit and pirate goods.”
What DFAT doesn’t discuss at all is the highly secretive nature of the treaty process. A prolonged legal campaign by the Electronic Freedom Foundation in the US did eventually result in 159 pages of documents associated with the treaty being released but only after 1362 had been deemed as potentially violating “national security” and withheld.

Open government seems to be playing second fiddle to the demands of the IP protection crowd, which counts deep-pocketed software makers and movie studios among its most verbal supporters.

Policy measures for combating copyright theft on one hand and censoring internet content to “protect children” on the other, may seem unrelated at a glance but only if you believe the lies.

As far as I am concerned, the protecting children line is a lie, how can government possibly filter 25 billion World Wide Web pages with any effectiveness whatsoever? In addition, certain organisations, ones that have a large enough profit margin, will enjoy exemption from being filtered.

In example, management from SecondLife have stated they have government assurance that they will be unaffected by filtering. How can this be when some areas of SL host the most heinous of debaucheries to be found in any online gaming platform, anywhere on the net?

Denial of access to internet end users by big brother to protect copyright law, and denial of access to protect children from undesirable content are both two sides of the same coin. Coin literally. Allowing people of the Earth to have freedom of choice, is not in the interest of the small minority, over privileged who puppeteer our governments and own all the big media companies, when they have a monopoly to maintain.

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