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Australian Law Proposal to Turn ISPs Into Copyright Cops

Australian Law Proposal to Turn ISPs Into Copyright Cops

There’s a disturbing new development in Australia. A law proposal was disclosed to the public that would get ISPs to spy on the contents of all communications to monitor for compliance. Presumably, the amendments would get Australian ISPs to monitor their networks for p2p activity and hand all their information to copyright holders.

If one were to say that internet privacy and concerns for file-sharers rarely, if ever, cross paths, this latest development would only further disprove this myth. While the Australian government says that the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment Bill 2009 – Network Protection is merely about network maintenance, the Electronic Frontier Australia paints a very different and far grimmer picture on what is going on.

EFA’s submission addresses our key concern that the proposed legislation provides a very broad exception to the prohibition on interception of network communications for the purposes of ensuring that a network is ‘appropriately used’. This is a very broad category that means that all network operators in Australia will be able to monitor the substance of communications that pass over their network for compliance with their Acceptable Use Policies ” the terms of which could include nearly anything. The AGD suggests that this is necessary to increase security, but have not shown any convincing justification why the contents of communications need to be examined nor why the scheme should extend beyond corporate networks to all Australian networks ” including consumer ISPs.

This proposed changed threatens to radically alter the ability of network operators to intercept, store, and disclose information passing over their networks. There are no safeguards to prevent disclosure to law enforcement agencies or third parties. It is entirely possible for these new provisions to be used to examine P2P filesharing data for copyright violations, for example, and to disclose any captured information to copyright owners.

In other words, these amendments could be used to get ISPs to do all the dirty work for the copyright industry.

In a submission during the very short consultation period, the EFA submitted their comments with regards to the proposed amendments, saying that the consultation was far too short for more critical analysis. They further comment with the following:

Section 5(1) effectively provides that ‘network protection duties’ includes monitoring the content of communications in order to ascertain whether the network is being ‘appropriately used’. Because of the broad undefined nature of the term ‘appropriately used’ and the fact that many AUPs may contain restrictions not on protocols or services that internet uses may use but upon the purpose for which those communications are being made, this provision opens the bulk of network communications to potential interception and continuing surveillance.

A common example can be found in AUPs that prohibit the use of peer-to-peer filesharing networks for the purposes of copyright infringement. In order to determine whether “the network is appropriately used”, a network operator would be required to intercept all peer-to-peer traffic and attempt a determination of whether any given traffic streams are being used to communicate copyright material without the licence of the copyright owner. Not only is such a task difficult or impossible due to the inherent complexity of copyright law and need to analyse the scope of any potential licences or fair dealing defences, it seriously imposes on the privacy of network users who are using legitimate file-sharing protocols for non-infringing activity.

EFA opposes the construction of ‘appropriately used’ in s 6AAA of the exposure draft. We submit that the definition in s 6AAA ought to be amended to reflect that operators are only entitled to intercept and monitor communications where those communications pose a threat to the security of the network itself. EFA notes that there are already laws in place which deal with the disclose of sensitive information, and that there are already civil and criminal procedures available to determine the origins and contents of communications that appear to contravene such laws. The proposed amendments have the dangerous effect of reversing the burden of proof for such monitoring, allowing network operators to monitor for compliance, rather than to seek disclosure once a prima facie case or reasonable suspicion of unlawful
activity exists. To the extent that operators of networks require the ability to monitor the activities of their users, there is no justification for allowing substantive examination of the contents of communication as opposed to the envelope information – numbers and types of packets and their destinations.

At best, this law should be a frightening prospect to all internet users, not just file-sharers as this is a huge infringement of personal privacy. While Canada is currently in the midst of mulling lawful access once again, at least the scope was far narrower than this. Even the US, home of the much despised DMCA didn’t go this far. Even the French three strikes law required some action from rights holders. To date, this appears to be the worst ISP law proposal we’ve ever seen followed closely by Austrian newspapers wanting to use data retention to enforce copyright.

Clearly, to the best of our knowledge, Australia is mulling the concept of boldly going where no other country has gone before in terms of mass communication interception. One wonders if the government has any idea what kind of task it would be to force ISPs to patrol their own networks on a packet-by-packet basis. Searching through headers on an entire major ISP is probably full time work for a team of internet specialists. That doesn’t even touch encrypted traffic. ISPs would probably have to pay money to a whole task force to people just to comply with this law which could have been spent on critical infrastructure upgrades, so Australian ISPs have a lot to lose, let alone Australian ISP customers who would have to worry about an ISP specialist covertly spying on every message or packet they send and receive online.

The law proposal will be debated in the Australian parliament in December, so there is still time to oppose this law.

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Drew Wilson
Drew Wilson is perhaps one of the more well-known file-sharing and technology news writers around. A journalist in the field since 2005, his work has had semi-regular appearances on social news websites and even occasional appearances on major news outlets as well. Drew founded freezenet.ca and still contributes to ZeroPaid. Twitter | Google Plus
anon
anon

The government is trying to use copyright infringement as an excuse to spy on people. This is immoral and despicable.

JDR
JDR

Brandon L you don't understand. Australia is a two party dictatorship, and religion definitely doesn't decide who is elected. The reason we get the same a$$holes every time is because of the welfare system, and because voting is mandatory. If I could, I would secede, cos this shithole is getting worse as the days go by. And all because of the sheer arrogance of the gov't. They tried to get their hands on some supers in NSW, but turned out the supers belonged to some judges, who went promptly to court. Good for them, they won. So basically, they tax you all your working life, and then try to steal your super, and then charge you tax on your funeral, and then your gone, and the gov't has spent 80 years(if that's how long you lived) feeding off you. It's just like the Matrix, except instead of being grown for energy, you're being grown for money. Stamp duty is ONLY a revenue raiser. that is the one and only purpose it serves. Then you look at stamp duty on your house, car, and everything else you ever bought..... Then you have to pay the gov't to let you own a house, then you have to pay to keep the house, then you have to pay the gov't to buy a car, then you pay to own the car. It goes on, and on, and on. love the country but I HATE THE GOVERNMENT OF AUSTRALIA. They get to do whatever they like to you, and you don't get to do a damn thing about it. I'm not an angry person, but I'd love to have a good civil war right....NOW. Thomas Jefferson said, when the people fear the gov't, that's tyranny. when the gov't fears the people, that's liberty. See, you ought to be able to tell the government what to do, they don't get that. If the government starts acting like the a$$hole it is, little tiny us should have a process of law where we step up there and say, BACK OFF, WE DON'T LIKE YOU ANYMORE.

Daniel
Daniel

It's time for a bill of rights, pure and simple. The right of privacy needs to be enshrined in the constitution so that the government's hands are tied. This sort of malarkey should not exist in a democratic country. We do live in a democracy, right? Because it seems as though we are drifting towards a police state. First clean-feed, now this. How about, oh, I don't know, FIXING THE DAMN INFRASTRUCTURE and then leaving us the hell alone? I'm really getting tired of this war on the internet the government is embarking upon. Last time I vote for a major party - they can all go F&$! themselves.

Brandon L
Brandon L

Sam I Am, I've rarely read something so obnoxiously stupid and immoral as your statement. The digital medium does not destroy, it CREATES. Someone as brainless and unintelligent as you should be fired from whatever work they do. Australia is a shit hole thanks to the religious people down there. Fuck em. They must be the most ignorant, stupid, dumb people on the planet to keep electing whatever governments are in power down there. Fuck you Australia

Bay
Bay

The fundamental principal of copy is in our nature since our own language development would be impossible under these rules. In fact the advancement of our species has been only through this fundamental right and not the erection of walled gardens around our creative works. Are these people human?

Grail
Grail

SamIAm - the ability for people to copy digitally presented material makes that material more valuable the more it is copied. Ask anyone who's posted a demo tape to a recording agent versus posting a demo MP3 on their band's web site. There are ways to prosecute copyright infringement without turning every citizen into a suspect. It is not the role of every other industry on the planet to prop up the USA's recording and movie industry. Do you want the police to search every car for stolen goods? Check every school bag for illegal drugs? Put satellite tracking bands on every male in the country to eliminate rape? Because you know, if we don't take those actions we're only going to encourage rape, drug abuse and burglary!

Ian
Ian

This is just pure evil. I don't think anything good has ever come from punishing people to the extreme for something so socially acceptable as copyright infringement (for personal use).

Anthony
Anthony

I do not bullshit and spam, I do not like them Sam I Am.

Samamnot
Samamnot

SamIam : Can you only see in black and white? There is always a grey area. You cant turn everyone into a criminal for the sake of certain companies. Read some more, you will find out that even record and movie companies steal ideas or dont always pay royalties when they should. But they are allowed to do what they like cause of high priced lawyers. And your jail comment? Are we living in a huge outdoor jail? Sounds like thats what your saying. You need to read more...

Hardboiled
Hardboiled

The solution to copyright infringement (I refuse to call it piracy), is for the content providers to come up with a solution that is easier, higher quality and reasonably priced, when compared to P2P et al. Until they do that, the alternative is far too attractive.

Peter
Peter

Other than protect big media and software conglomerates, most of which are in America. What is this legislation actually going to do? It serves to do little for Australian business and appears to be a face value a dodgy underhanded agreement with the large US lobby groups for benefits undisclosed. So, why on earth would Australians want anything to do with it all? I know I'll be changing my vote for this up and coming election. Stupid Conroy goes and blows it.

Very angry
Very angry

This is so crap! our government is so adamant to destroy the internet at full paces.

Steven R
Steven R

Sam I aM : What are you smoking? cause i want some. Privacy is a RIGHT. All this will do is make criminals out of hundreds of thousands of people. This government is a joke.

Daniel
Daniel

I wonder if they (the government) are going to reimburse the ISP's for all costs involved in assigning such a task force? If not, then not only will these ISP's lose customers, but they will be spending their own money to do so. This is a pathetic idea. There are many australians like myself who send and receive emails which include confidential information, and to have such a "task force" check everything that goes through their servers is just a big invasion of privacy. We shouldn't have to fear the digital age that we are in. We shouldn't have to fear someone looking over our shoulders to see who's doing right and who isn't. This is pathetic. I understand where the government is coming from, but this is just too far.

Paul
Paul

LOL Go ahead. I predict a nice tidy loss for the ISP industry. I'll take my money elsewhere.

Sam I Am
Sam I Am

Piracy gives government one very bad choice. Either everything digital is to be routinely ransacked and rendered valueless, and the promise of digital distribution will also be lost, or, they must create an online police state filtering everything, and punish law breakers beyond their wildest fears to make examples and deter others. There is no valid grey area. And because privacy is not a guaranteed right but rather a privilege until it is abused and taken away, (like being in jail, for instance) it only remains viable when it is respected, but not when used as a cover for breaking the law. Pirates will be held to blame for laws like this in the long run. You give government a very bad choice but make no mistake, they are making it. And they will.

D.AN
D.AN

Essentially your writing pattern is as such: 1) Write a false speculation with intention to offend regardless of current knowledge. 2) Use a blatant lie in order to produce a false speculation and attack your audience. 3) Attack your audience by whatever means. 4) Add filler into your ‘argument’ with more false speculations that may or may not logically follow. 5) Attack your audience by whatever means whether what you write is factually true or logically follow or not. 6) Same as 5) but at about half the strength or is a continuation. 7) End by writing something lame. For instance (although for this case, in this post you don't attack): 1) "Piracy gives government one very bad choice. Either everything digital is to be routinely ransacked and rendered valueless, and the promise of digital distribution will also be lost, or, they must create an online police state filtering everything, and punish law breakers beyond their wildest fears to make examples and deter others." Definitely offensive and naive. 2,3) -- 4) "There is no valid grey area. And because privacy is not a guaranteed right but rather a privilege until it is abused and taken away, (like being in jail, for instance) it only remains viable when it is respected, but not when used as a cover for breaking the law. Pirates will be held to blame for laws like this in the long run." Reality laughs at your face. 5) -- 6,7) "You give government a very bad choice but make no mistake, they are making it. And they will." Yawn. Maybe if you stopped making things up, then perhaps other readers will take you seriously.

soulxtc
soulxtc

Digital content isnt valueless, just ask Apple. it's making money hand over fist with iTunes! Plus, even the best of filtering technology is easily circumventab;e. MP#s can be turned into .JPEGs or can simply be attached to e-mails well beyond the reach of govt. Its not so much that filtering is bad in and of itself but rather that it's so pointless.

soultx
soultx

No. It IS bad "in and of itself". If you don't understand why then you deserve to live under such a regime.

soulxtc
soulxtc

Of course it is bad “in and of itself," but it is ALSO rather pointless.



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