Here’s the latest activity regarding communications related national security legislation brought to you courtesy of the Senate Bills List dated 15 October…


The case we all thought ended two years ago (Grokster, on the liability of the providers of the file-sharing software) continues at lower levels, with an interesting judgment on final orders, discussed by Ed Felten, and Jason Schultz (part 1, part 2).

Big issue in the case: what kind of injunction to order. Do you order the defendant to stop all infringements using their software? Some? who decides whether the system is ‘good enough’? Clearly, the court has struggled with this issue. It decided on an order that required steps to reduce infringement, but not 100% effectiveness.

This is all sounding very, very familiar. Kazaa redux, methinks.

The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting the news that Music Industry Piracy Investigations (MIPI), the music industry’s copyright enforcement arm, is threatening that they may have to start suing individuals for copyright infringement, if ISPs don’t do what they wish, and ‘exert more control over their users’. but is this news? And is it likely? I don’t think so. But to explain why, we need some backstory.

[UPDATE]: Today’s AFR has more on MIPI’s proposals for ISP monitoring of copyright infringement: see page 40] (more…)

Further to my previous posts, the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment Bill 2007 was passed by the Senate on 20 September 2007. It went through without a definition of ‘telecommunications data’. The Democrats and the Greens expressed their concerns about the bill generally and its impact on privacy and the vagueness of the term ‘telecommunications data’ but their suggested amendments were negatived. See Natasha Stott-Despoja’s speech and Kerry Nettle’s speech for details.

The Communications Legislation Amendment (Crime or Terrorism Related Internet Content) Bill 2007 was introduced into the Senate at the beginning of this week. Senator Eric Abetz had this to say in his Second Reading Speech:

“The Government’s recent review of the E-Security National Agenda found that the e-security landscape has changed significantly with the emergence of sophisticated, targeted and malicious online attacks. Many of these attacks are associated with websites used by criminals to perpetrate fraud or circulate malicious software.

This Bill proposes to amend the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 to expand the black list of Internet addresses (URLs) that is currently maintained by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to include crime and terrorism related websites hosted domestically and overseas. Black listing cyber crime and terrorism websites is part of the Government’s comprehensive NetAlert – Protecting Australian Families Online initiative.”

The Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee report on the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment Bill 2007 was tabled in parliament on 7 August. Get the report here. The legislation was intoduced into the Senate on 16 August 2007. Given the changes that this Bill introduces to the current arrangements for interception capability, and access to ‘telecommunications data’, the recommendations of the Senate Committee will have a relatively low impact on the shape of the final Bill. There was an interesting response put by the A-G’s Department in the committee inquiry in respect the nature of ‘telecommunications data’ (see page 10 fo the A-G response). If RFC 2822 is of interest to you, read on…


If you haven’t already seen it mentioned in the news, there’s now a way to identify who is editing entries in Wikipedia–or at least the organisations from which the edits are being made.

WikiScanner, created by a Cal Tech computation and neural-systems graduate student, provides a searchable database that cross-references edits to Wikipedia pages with information on the owners of the IP addresses from which those edits originate. (more…)

I’ve said it again, and again – what is it about internet censorship that leads to the complete departure of reason (and yes, yes, yes, I know, it’s an election year). Sigh grumble grumble.

I nearly choked over my wheaties this morning when I saw this story on the front page of the newspaper, according to which:

INTERNET service providers will be forced to filter web content at the request of parents, under a $189 million Federal Government crackdown on online bad language, pornography and child sex predators.

Let me see, which countries use ISP or country level filtering? China … Saudi Arabia … Thailand … Kazakhstan … Georgia … Iran … Sudan … Malaysia … Tunisia … Uzbekistan… Belarus. Yes, there’s a set of countries I aspire to join.

Now, admittedly, the proposal seems to have ISP level filtering ‘on request’, rather than entirely imposed from above. Unlike the Chinese, Australians will have choice about whether to have their internet service filtered (at least to some extent – there’s plenty of laws in place to require Australian-hosted material to be taken down). The idea seems to be that parents have trouble installing PC-based filters (or at least installing them so their tech-savvy kids can’t get around them) – so ISPs should be forced to do that work for them.

But then that raises interesting issues of cost, doesn’t it? Let us see, what did DCITA itself conclude (note: big pdf) just a couple of years ago?

• Filtering technologies have not developed to the point where they can feasibly filter R-rated content hosted overseas that is not subject to a restricted access system.
• Complex analysis filtering technologies are not practical in a national proxy filtering system. However, due to developments in search algorithms and server power, Uniform Resource Locator (URL) or Internet Protocol (IP) addressed-based filtering does appear technically feasible at the ISP or server level.
• There are a number of practical difficulties in mandating URL/IP based filtering at the ISP level, including accuracy rates and, according to the Internet industry, impact on broadband. Ovum has estimated that URL/IP based filtering would involve implementation costs of approximately $45 million and ongoing costs of more than $33 million per annum. Such costs could significantly impact on the financial viability of smaller ISPs, in particular. Given the limited benefits of an ISP-level filtering system, the costs of a mandated requirement to filter do not appear justified.

So. Show me the report that says something has changed. Oh, no, that’s right, this is another one of those back of the envelope ‘it’s important and it’s an election year’ things. Sigh, grumble, grumble.

And it does seem like a lot of money in order to make it a bit harder for a few kids to access inappropriate material, and to save those kids’ parents the trouble of installing filters on their home computers. cost effective? methinks not. Oh, yes, right – that’s not the issue, it’s an election year.

There have been a couple of interesting developments in social networking land lately. One demonstrates the value that these networks represent. The other highlights some complicated issues about risks associated with using social networking tools, as well as possible privacy and more general regulatory concerns. (more…)

And here’s a new danger from posting information on Facebook–your university might use the information to fine you for breaking the rules.

Oxford University has reportedly used photographs of students on the popular social networking website Facebook who they say have broken the University’s rules regarding conduct after examinations to charge fines. The conduct? Being sprayed by shaving cream, covered by flour and silly string, and similar offences. (more…)

Following on from Kim’s last post, if there was ever a time when national security and anti- terrorism legislation wasn’t a tech-law issue, that time has passed. The Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment Bill 2007 is currently before a Senate Committee. There are 26 submissions . The industry will have to get its head around the new framework. National Security is now a tech law issue and I think it is going to get complicated.

Australia’s competition regulator, the ACCC, is taking Google to court, alleging that the search engine company has engaged in “misleading and deceptive conduct in relation to sponsored links that appeared on the Google website”, in contravention of section 52 of the Trade Practices Act 1974 (Cth).

Section 52(1) provides that a “corporation shall not, in trade or commerce, engage in conduct that is misleading or deceptive or is likely to mislead or deceive.”

The ACCC has alleged that Google has engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct in breach of section 52 by:

–in 2005, providing sponsored links to online classified advertisement provider Trading Post‘s website, in the guise of hypertext links to two of Trading Post’s competitors (but associating the text with the Trading Post’s URL); and
–on a continuing basis, “failing to adequately distinguish sponsored links from “organic” search results”.

The ACCC has also alleged that Trading Post contravened sections 52 and 53(d) of the Act in 2005 when the names of their business competitors (car dealerships) appeared in the title of Google sponsored links to Trading Post’s website. (Section 53(d) prohibits a corporation from representing that it “has a sponsorship, approval or affiliation it does not have”.) (more…)

While Google is currently the dominant player in the Internet search engine business, that doesn’t mean that there is not a great deal of activity among companies vying for a piece of the action. As was recently reported, even 1% of the global search market represents quite a bit of money.

Not all search engine companies use the same strategies to capture market share, however. (more…)

Google has a new public policy blog, and in an interesting post, Andrew McLaughlin (their Director of Public Policy and Government Affairs) notes a story now circulating – that Google has been having

fairly quiet discussions …with various parts of the U.S. government, including the Departments of State and Commerce, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, and various House and Senate committees.

in which Google has been making the case that ‘For Google, it is fair to say that censorship constitutes the single greatest trade barrier we currently face’, and that:

Just as the U.S. government has, in decades past, utilized its trade negotiation powers to advance the interests of other U.S. industries, we would like to see the federal government take to heart the interests of the information industries and treat the elimination of unwarranted censorship as a central objective of our bilateral and multilateral trade agendas in the years to come.

This has of course elicited some of the expected critiques – ‘how can Google say this when it actively collaborates with censorship in foreign countries’. Personally, I think that’s a pointless and ill-considered criticism – Google might well be censoring now – because, oh, it has to under the laws of the countries where it operates. That doesn’t prevent it actively trying to break down the censorship rules so it can stop complying with them.

I think there’s more serious criticisms that need to be borne in mind by Google when it makes this argument about injecting its concerns into bilateral trade negotiations. As someone who is based in Australia – a country that has had a bilateral trade negotiation with the US – I find the idea of the US injecting even more policy issues outside immediate trade issues into its FTAs a bit offensive. I know, from the Australian experience, what this means. And that is, that good as the intention might be, it is likely to become seriously perverted by the USTR and trade negotiation process. I hope (in the spirit of constructive criticism) that Google gives serious thought to whether this can work as it might hope, even in the most hospitable environment. (more…)

Hew Griffiths was sentenced to over 4 years in gaol on Friday for criminal copyright infringement (the US court has recognised time served already in Australia challenging extradition; this means he will spend about 15 months in prison in reality). Hew Griffiths was extradited to the US from Australia in February to face a US court – even though he had never previously set foot in the country.

Earlier commentary on the case can be found at Larvatus Prodeo, Catallaxy, Legal Soapbox (here and here), Inchoate, and IPWars – and even the IPKat, as well as the mainstream media (here and here). Malik and the House of Commons have commented on the endgame, as has Club Troppo. It’s interesting to read the commentary: a lot of people really are quite torn over this one. Griffiths did some pretty serious stuff in terms of copyright infringement – about as serious as you can imagine it getting. Nevertheless, is extradition appropriate/proportionate?

Today, I have a short comment in Crikey. More over the fold. (more…)

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