AFACT Afraid of Pirate Party?

By chance I stumbled across this rather amusing critique of submissions on technological protection measure exceptions by copyright warriors, AFACT. The submissions they critique are from a range of organisations: the Australian Libraries Copyright Committee, the Copyright Advisory Group, Copyright in Cultural Institutions, Universities Australia, and Pirate Party Australia (naturally). All submissions can be found here.

The content of Pirate Party Australia’s submission contained arguments in favour of clear exceptions to allow legitimate customers to back up their content, to allow them to format shift across various devices, and to exercise fair dealing rights (similar to fair use in other jurisdictions).

So, what’s so funny? Well, first of all, this rather lovely appraisal of our organisation (derp emphasis added):

As a preliminary point, the Department should be wary of accepting submissions from organisations such as the Pirate Party Australia, an organisation (not a registered political party) with a primary argument to “decriminalise non-commercial copyright infringement”(1), where non-commercial copyright infringement includes conduct of an owner/operator of a website that makes unauthorised copyright material available where the primary purpose of the website is not to earn money (even where some income is accrued from the site)(2). An entity that professes no respect for the rule of law is hardly one on which the government could or should rely in determining policy regarding whether to expand the scope of the TPMs.

(1) http://pirateparty.org.au/faq/.

(2) Christian Engstrom MEP and Rick Falkvinge, The Case for Copyright Reform 2012, page 81, available at www.copyrightreform.eu.

For a professional organisation, I’m surprised that AFACT have to stoop to this level. Seriously guys? Beating up volunteers? Good work! But, meeting this argument, let’s see what’s wrong.

AFACT are essentially saying: “Don’t trust the Pirate Party, because they’re not registered and support copyright liberalism.” So, because Pirate Party Australia isn’t registered (yet), we are less valid than AFACT. Who knows what AFACT stands for?

Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft.

AFACT was established in 2004 to protect the film and television industry, retailers and movie fans from the adverse impact of copyright theft in Australia. AFACT works closely with industry, government and law enforcement authorities to achieve its aims.

Don’t trust an organisation that can’t tell the difference between copyright infringement and theft! I mean, this is their job. They are meant to know the difference. I know “AFACI” doesn’t sound as clever, but surely someone among you has a law degree? I mean, during my humble music course I endured two lectures on copyright that really drove that point home. Though I suppose rhetoric is a good approach when you’re losing.

Also, it’s very unprofessional to apply a book written by two prominent Swedes to an Australian organisation. The Case For Copyright Reform, while in my opinion an interesting book, should not be considered to be representative of every Pirate Party. For one thing, they want a twenty-year copyright term; we push for fifteen. Maybe actually do a modicum of research before you start making assumptions — would you use UK Labour Party documents as reflections on the Australian Labor Party? Probably not. And hey, my phone number and email address are publicly available. Send me an email or call me if you want to get your facts right.

And then, the big one. Accusing us of being a criminal organisation. Pirate Party Australia has never advocated breaking the law. As an organisation, we respect the law to the letter. It is our aim to change the law, not to be outlaws. I note that no reference for the statement “an organisation that professes no respect for the rule of law” is provided. Maybe because AFACT just jumped to conclusions and resorted to that good old rhetoric (or slander) again.

The only conclusion I can draw from these comments is that AFACT are afraid of Pirate Party Australia. They do not seem to be the words of a rational organisation who believe in what they are doing. It seems to reflect some sort of fear that maybe we’ll get listened to, that maybe their lobbying is unsuccessful, that perhaps secret meetings with the Attorney-General’s Department won’t be enough. Though perhaps I’m reading too much into this, so I’ll stop hypothesising: that appears to be AFACT’s job.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the remainder of AFACT’s critique predominantly opposes all attempts to allow circumvention of TPMs. This, in my opinion, reflects an extreme disconnect with consumers. AFACT actively opposes any circumvention that would make life easier for consumers, and while I can obviously understand their desire to prevent copyright infringement, I don’t think they’re doing themselves any favours by promoting the use of technologies that, frankly, will piss off the customers of those they claim to represent. Resentment can do a lot to kill off a customer base.

Oh well, as I said, “rhetoric.” When you can’t beat the pirates fair and square, cheat…or maybe reconsider your position.

Though considering they couldn’t even get the name right, I’m not too sure AFACT are the sharpest tools in the shed.

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Author: Mozart Olbrycht-Palmer

Pirate Party Australia Deputy Secretary and Press Officer. Former member of the Pirate Parties International Court of Arbitration.

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