Resolving Australia’s treaty-making ‘democratic deficit’

Australia’s treaty-making process completely bypassed the Commonwealth Parliament until the 1960s, when Prime Minister Menzies committed to tabling in both Houses of Parliament treaties that were signed but not yet ratified. Reforms in the 1990s attempted to involve Parliament more, but it has for the most part retained its lame duck status and Australia continues to suffer a democratic deficit.

Negotiating, entering into and ratifying treaties is the prerogative of the Australian Government. The signature of the Foreign Affairs or Trade Minister is a gesture that the Australian Government intends to commit Australia to obligations under international law. When the Government ratifies or accedes to an agreement, it becomes binding on Australia, confirming that Australia will comply with those obligations.

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Rights: a balancing act

I believe I am right. For the time being at least, I believe that what I stand for — intellectual property reform, privacy, transparency, civil liberties – is worth standing for. I am fully prepared to accept that I might actually be wrong about some of it. Maybe copyright is just fine as it is, maybe law enforcement agencies do need blanket data retention, and maybe government does need to keep secrets. But, from available evidence, I don’t think I am wrong.

When I look at the other side of these debates, at various industry and law enforcement groups, I see a lot of rhetoric, sensationalism, hyperbole and manipulation. A very simplistic example is the slogan “home taping is killing music,” circulated by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) in the 1980s. This is very easily ridiculed with the argument that music has survived pretty healthily over the past million or so years without copyright.

However, it is quite easy to fall into the same trap of using those tactics, perhaps unknowingly, yourself. Mike Masnick’s “The Sky’s the Limit” report, for example, has been criticised, and quite frankly for good reason. I wouldn’t trust a report sponsored by an industry organisation whose members would directly benefit from a reduction in copyright regulations to be unbiased. It is for such reasons that I have pushed for strict guidelines on what material should be used to support Pirate Party Australia’s policies.

But what has all this got to do with rights?

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Surprising RSC policy brief: how to fix copyright law

Two days ago, the Republican Study Committee published a surprising policy brief titled “Three Myths about Copyright Law and Where to Start to Fix it“. I’ve uploaded a copy here, as others have done on their sites, to make sure it stays available, as it has already been pulled from the RSC website. I’m not going to speculate, as Techdirt have, on the reasons behind the brief disappearing, but I thought it was worth writing something about the contents.

Very rarely do I agree with the Republicans, so I was quite surprised to read this document. Of course, I’m biased against modern copyright law, but even copyright holders who want to maintain the current level of protectionism (and go beyond) must acknowledge the accuracy of the brief.

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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):

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The Trichordist Strawmen

Many readers would be familiar with the strawman fallacy. As I wrote in my previous post, the strawman fallacy works like this:

Person A: “Defense is necessary. We should spend more on protecting the nation.”

Person B: “I don’t think we need to spend more on defense.”

Person A: “Person B doesn’t think defense is important! They would see us be at the mercy of more powerful nations!”

A very simplified version of it, but it gets to the point. Person B has put forward the statement that they think defense is fine as it is. Person A has distorted that argument, and transformed it into something that can be more easily argued against. The easiest option is to reinterpret that statement, and present an emotive argument against it, putting the onus back on Person B to clarify and defend their statement. It’s frustrating being on the receiving end of this.

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Illegal Sound Musical Quotation Research Paper

Illegal Sound –

A brief look at attitudes toward musical quotation and copyright infringement in the twenty-first century

Copyright infringement has in the last decade become a hotly debated topic, a direct result of the ease with which copyrighted material can be distributed without authorisation via the Internet. Music industry organisations have pursued these ‘pirates,’ while artists are divided on the issue. Musicians including Thom Yorke (of Radiohead)1, Neil Young2  and Courtney Love3 have publicly taken the side of the pirates, while on the other hand Metallica4, Lily Allen5 and Till Lindemann (of Rammstein)6 have been in support of anti-piracy campaigns and measures. The issue has entered the global political landscape with the Pirate Party movement established in over forty countries. The German Pirate Party has taken nearly fifty state parliament seats and is polling just behind the Greens. However, the debate is often centred around file-sharing, and fails to address the issue of ‘read-only culture.’

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