Category: Pirate Party

Like Pulling Teeth

 

Recently, I made a request for access to the Attorney-Generals Department for draft legislation which was refused because it would not be in the public interest to release such information. It was covered fairly comprehensively by Delimiter & The Sydney Morning Herald, the refusal to release advice, preparatory materials and other information was roundly condemned. Similar efforts to make material available by the Australian Greens, strengthened by their access to parliamentary processes were shut down as the major parties colluded to shut down access.

Now begins the long process of asking for a review via the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner(OAIC), and fighting for the documentation to be released [PR]. The text of the appeal is below. I’m informed by the OAIC that there is a huge backlog of appeals for review, meaning it could be months before the process even begins and a case officer is assigned.

This is a situation the Attorney General’s Department is fully aware of. Any request for internal review, would surely fail, simply because of the organisational confirmation bias and they know there is significant lag at the OAIC. The AGD are fully aware of the political sensitivity of the issue and the legislative changes they’ve sought, but are gaming the freedom of information process to strategically delay or preclude public scrutiny and debate. The process of actually bringing government bureaucracies into the 21st century, and acting in accordance with platitudes of ‘Open Government’ really is like pulling teeth.

 

Australia’s Last Chance to Defeat ACTA

This article has been published at the ABC.

Today we saw thousands take to the streets in Poland in what has become an ongoing protest, the European Parliament’s rapporteur of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement resign in disgust at the ACTA charade, the exclusionary and opaque process. We also saw the passing of what is possibly the last opportunity for Australians to stop the ACTA agreement cementing the expansive changes to laws in Australia imposed via the Australian United States Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA).

There is some debate as to whether there will be any substantive change for Australia, i.e. are we going to have to change our laws? It certainly cements the already draconian laws we have, providing an environment for stricter enforcement and for an expansion of an already bad system, but that is not the biggest issue with ACTA.

The biggest issue is the secrecy in which the agreement was forged. The exclusion of civil society, consumer and civil liberties groups in formative stages, where a belligerent industry intent on disingenuously conflating issues like file sharing with counterfeiting were given open and unfettered access.

ACTA is an example of legislative negligence and a total disregard for evidence in policy making in Australia. Despite the Productivity Commission proclaiming that Australia should be seeking to exclude IP from bilateral and regional trade negotiations because of the obviously damaging changes to Australian law imposed by the AUSFTA, here is DFAT negotiating an agreement that entrenches those bad laws, just as it continues to include those bad laws in the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). When queried, there is no study or economic assessment that supports the expansion or stricter enforcement of copyright and patents in Australia, except of course for untrustworthy industry research, manufactured to elicit legislative change by deception.

These sentiments, and others, were expressed in the Pirate Party’s submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties. Although the due date has passed, Committee Secretaries are usually more than willing to accept late submissions. Make noise.

 

Props should go to @OlbrychtPalmer, @piecritic and @akfru for their work in the submission.

Ctrl C + Ctrl V — 5th Largest EU Group Adopts Pirate Perspective

In an extremely promising development, and a huge victory[1] for the Pirate Party movement, an entire EU Parliamentary group has adopted Pirate principles. The Greens/European Free Alliance, of which Christian Engström, Piratpartiet’s MEP is a member, has listened to the reason of the Pirate movement and adopted the Pirate Party’s approach to copyright. I think there is issues with some of it,[2] but it is hugely positive.

Summarised by Rick, the Greens/EFA now hold as policy:

— It must be made absolutely clear that the copyright monopoly does not extend to what an ordinary person can do with ordinary equipment in their home and spare time; it regulates commercial, intent-to-profit activity only. Specifically, file sharing is always legal.

— There must be exceptions that make it legal to create mashups and remixes. Quotation rights, like those that exist for text, must be extended to sound and video.

— Digital Restrictions Management should preferably be outlawed, as it is a type of fraud nullifying consumer and citizen rights, but at least, it must always be legal to circumvent.

— The baseline commercial copyright monopoly is shortened to a reasonable five years from publication, extendable to twenty years through registration of the work.

— The public domain must be strengthened.

This is something we’ve always said was part of our goals. To make other parties think about our position, and as Rick says, this is delivery. This is something the Green movement around the world will now be forced to look at, and consider.

Will the Australian Greens consider? You betcha. They already are. As a movement in its infancy, that we are already forcing reactions from political organisations that have now been around for almost 30-40 years is amazing, and as individual parties develop, we are seeing what the possibilities are, and how we can differentiate the movement from any other.[3]

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