On the August 24, The Australian revealed that the Attorney General’s Department was convening meetings with stakeholders — except that it had excluded one very important group. You.
The copyright lobby and its many faces and fronts are being given an audience with the Attorney General’s Department and platform on which to pressure ISPs into an industry code for ‘dealing’ with file sharers. Of course, we know what that means – the termination of access on their accusation.
What is very worrying, is that this is being conducted behind closed doors and that the government seems very willing to place the legislative gun to the head of service providers. If there is one thing that the government is transparent about, it is that it will pull that trigger, in attempting to enforce an antiquated monopoly mechanism, with no regard to clear issues with human rights and civil liberties.
We cannot rely on ISPs to protect consumers — when push comes to shove, they will capitulate, so it is important that civil society and political groups and parties all sing the same song — termination, suspension or limitation of access to the Internet for allegations of copyright infringement, or even breaches, are not acceptable or proportional.
Below is a letter sent to the Secretary of the Attorney General’s Department, Mr Wilkins.
Dear Mr. Wilkins,
I write to you seeking clarification of certain issues raised in an article authored by Andrew Colley, published in The Australian on August 24, 2011 entitled ‘A-G in call for talks on online piracy’.
The article cites a spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Department indicating that a meeting had been convened in order to garner the differing positions, need and scope of any governmental intervention.
It is very concerning that there has been no public mention of the meeting convened between stakeholders and that amongst the published list of invited participants there appears to be no representation from consumer organisations or civil society – in fact, the meeting appears to be convened with the specific intention to exclude these stakeholders.
It is even more concerning that organisations like the Australian Content Industry Group, and the dubious studies they have commissioned, which have subsequently been used by the Attorney General as justification for the policy direction of the Australian Government and only released by the organisation after Freedom of Information requests were made by myself to the department, are being given unfettered access, facilitated by the Attorney General’s department to lobby government and industry for the development of an industry code, or to effect legislative changes.
The willingness of government ministers and the Attorney General to so readily facilitate the development of disconnection mechanisms for alleged copyright infringement like those operating in New Zealand, the UK or France, is worrying.
The termination or limitation of access to the Internet on the grounds of violation of intellectual property laws, in this case, copyright, is completely disproportionate, ineffective and a violation of human rights.
That this is done without the oversight or inclusion of civil society in an open forum raises questions regarding the integrity of the democratic process and the willingness of the government to engage and listen to alternative perspectives, economic analysis and academic study.
It is imperative that the government acts in the interest of Australian citizens, recognising the importance of Internet access, protecting the rights of Australian citizens to seek and impart information, knowledge and culture, and works to safeguard due process and fundamental rights. It can do this by being transparent and open in its decision-making and policy development process.