Australian Greens Dissenting Report
The Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015 is the latest in
a long line of misguided attempts by the government to monitor, control and
censor the Internet.
The Bill will allocate a significant new censorship power to the Court
that will be used by copyright owners to block access to online content.
However, there is a substantial weight of evidence showing that it will be
relatively easy to evade the Bill's provisions, that it does not contain appropriate
safeguards, and that it may result in legitimate online sources being blocked.
Most importantly, there is also a significant weight of evidence showing
that the Bill will not meet its aims, as it does not address the underlying
cause of online copyright infringement: The continual refusal of offshore
rights holders to make their content available in a timely, convenient and
affordable manner to Australians.
The committee's report into the Bill canvasses a number of these
concerns, which were raised by many stakeholders during the inquiry. However,
the report's conclusions and recommendations do not acknowledge or deal with
these outstanding concerns regarding the Bill.
In their submission, major telecommunications companies Amcom and iiNet
note that 'site blocking is unlikely to be an effective way of dealing with
online copyright infringement',
a view supported by Google, which notes in its submission: 'There is increasing
evidence to suggest that siteblocking is not the most effective means of stopping
Part of the reason for this is the ease of avoiding site-blocking
mechanisms. Noting a variety of popular techniques already available for the
purpose, consumer group CHOICE notes in its submission: 'Circumventing a
website block is not difficult.'
A number of submissions to the inquiry pointed out that a more effective
way of dealing with Internet piracy would be to address its root cause: The
lack of commercial options in the Australian market.
CHOICE wrote in its submission:
CHOICE's research has shown that consumers in Australia pay
more for identical digital products than consumers in comparable markets, such
as the USA or United Kingdom. Providing Australians with better access to
digital content at a comparably reasonable price will give consumers a greater
incentive and opportunity to access content legitimately.
The extremely rapid uptake of the Netflix Internet television services
after its March 2015 launch is one strong indication that Australians will
adopt commercial services where they are available, instead of infringing
Submitters highlighted the fact that this issue had been examined in
detail by the 2013 inquiry into the pricing of technology products and content
by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Infrastructure and
Communications. The government has not yet responded to that report.
Submitters also raised a number of other substantive issues with the
Bill. Similar legislation in the UK has shown that ISPs and foreign website
owners would be unlikely to contest the site blocks, due to the cost of doing
so and the effort involved for a foreign party in involvement in Australian
legal action, meaning that many of the site-blocking actions would be likely to
pass uncontested through the courts without sufficient advocacy on both sides.
There are also concerns that the language in the Bill is not specific
enough to prohibit some legitimate providers of online services (such as
Virtual Private Network providers) from being blocked.
During any legislative process, it is important that the rights of all
stakeholders be considered so that a balance can be struck between the rights
of individuals, industry, and other organisations. Unfortunately, the
Australian Greens do not believe the Committee has adequately taken the views
of stakeholders other than copyright holders into account in its report.
Neither does the report adequately address concerns that the Bill will
not be effective in meeting its aims.
The Australian Greens recommend that the Bill not be passed.
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