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Copyright and the Law

Here in Australia we are suffering under a government that is trying to bring a big foot down on file sharers, same thing in the UK, same thing in China, Iraq…great company to be in isn’t it? In the obviously repressive regimes they simply want to stop any opposition, but in our more enlightened ‘democracies’ the proposed legislation is targeting file sharers, those people who illegally download music, movies or software.

Illicit file sharing we are told, is costing millions a year. You will have seen the ads when at the movies or on hired DVDs: ” what you are burning is the future of the Australian film industry” and claims that $200 million are ‘lost’ this way. The government is using these unsubstantiated claims to legitimise draconian attempts to control the internet. In Australia by attempting to make the ISP’s responsible for what their customers do with their service: akin to making car manufacturers responsible for criminals using their cars in robberies!

The truth is that the government has been lobbied by big business who want their monopolies protected. The music industry has been milking musicians for decades but now that technology has changed and they can’t control the dissemination of music anymore they are panicking and looking to their mates in power for help. These mates are trying to make the ISP’s responsible but fortunately these companies who are running successful businesses are not going to lie down and see their businesses becoming unviable thanks to unconstitutional legislation and are resisting.

In Britain their government is attempting to rush the bill through just before the election is called so it won’t be discussed properly because they know that it is unlikely to get through if assessed in the usual manner. They are proposing the USA model of ‘3 strikes and you are out’ with the ‘alleged file sharers’ not even having the democratic right of innocence until proven guilty! All it takes is an allegation, leaving the field ripe for corruption. Here we are blundering into absurd, costly court cases such as the recent test case by 34 movie studios involving iInet (formerly Ozemail), one of the biggest ISP’s in the country, which fortunately failed in it’s initial prosecution. The appeal is still to be heard.

The important thing to remember is that the copyright laws were invented by big business not to protect the rights of the artists, but to protect their business models. This is something many people don’t know, or forget in the heated emotional rhetoric that usually occurs in any argument on the subject. We live in a different time when media can be delivered digitally via the internet and the legislation needs to reflect this truth rather than attempt unworkable protection for established, old fashioned businesses who won’t change with the times and want the law to safeguard their long preserved advantages, shielded by the copyright laws that they themselves initiated!

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