Feb 21, 2014

The Coalition’s looming push for a well-ordered internet

The federal government appears to be preparing a major push against internet freedoms using the justifications of copyright and cyberbullying.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

A week ago Attorney-General George Brandis rose at an Australian Digital Alliance forum to discuss copyright reform in the wake of the release of the Australian Law Reform Commission’s copyright review. He began by quoting Thomas Macaulay speaking in the House of Commons on copyright in 1841. “It was, I believe, the first occasion that copyright law had been debated by the House of Commons,” the Attorney-General said.

Whatever his merits as a lawyer, Brandis is a dud historian. Copyright was often debated in the House of Commons long before 1841, most notably for the Copyright Act of 1709. In fact, the history of English governments trying to regulate what would eventually be termed copyright goes back to the 16th century, when an industry group called the Stationers’ Company convinced the murderous regime of Queen Mary to let it have a monopoly on printing books, in order to better enable the Crown to stifle Protestant dissent.

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34 thoughts on “The Coalition’s looming push for a well-ordered internet

  1. klewso

    Beetle’s always been selective in his research – he stops when he gets to his point.

  2. Hindrum Cameron

    George Brandis had better have an ‘open and inquiring mind’. He spent many thousands of my dollars on books to help him get it.

  3. Tristan Wilson

    We all know that there will never be meaningful Copyright reform as long as dinosaurs like Brandis are in power. Life Plus 70 Years (or 95 Years for group works) only benefits corporations, not the original author, and most certainly not the general public. Studies have shown that the optimal length for Copyright can be as little as 14 years. In other words, 14 years is the appropriate length to achieve both goals that Copyright is actually supposed to aim for: 1) provide a REASONABLE return of investment for the author, and 2) allow society in general to benefit once the work passes into the public domain. Of course, you just try to push for a Copyright maximum of 14 years and see just how long it takes the big corporations like film companies and record labels to come screaming after you with pitchforks.

  4. drmick

    This wouldn’t have anything to do with His Masters Voice would it? A casual billion is never enough if he can use his political party and politician of the century to stop any opposition to his pay for TV; especially those nasty free internet sites.
    How is a fa$cist supposed to control when he doesn’t control everything? After nobbling the NBN to make it a joke, he needs to ensure that any download speed is measured in days, then he needs to ensure that what takes days to download is never seen. Enter the legislators; and note its not to protect us; the users; its to protect him.

  5. Sean

    Great article Bernard. Brandis’ capacity to examine the law in any area and creatively misunderstand it in a manner that suits his political purposes is breathtaking. He’s the worst jurisprudence lecturer I never had.

  6. Todd Curry

    The Abbott Government will not support ineffective business practises unless they are media companies who refuse to provide content where, how and when consumers want it, at a reasonable price.

  7. JohnB

    The gang of old men who were born to rule over us seems to be attracted to the Church’s idea of openness, which is that the priest interprets the scriptures an uneducated flock.

    The livelihood and authority of the former rely on the ignorance and lack of power of the latter.

    Indeed, Brandis is an excellent example, possibly matched by the Minister for Immigration and his Holiness the Abbot.

  8. Jimmyhaz

    I eagerly await Bolt’s article on how this is an attack on our fundamental freedom’s.

  9. The Cleaning Lady

    Excellent writing, Bernard.

    This sounds like a great big, toxic, load of burdensome regulatory red tape. Isn’t there some cost/benefit analysis they have to go through before enacting any new regulation?

  10. zut alors

    ‘Whatever his merits as a lawyer…’

    Neat work Bernard, whilst not being defamatory we get the gist perfectly.

    As governments slow down the flow of information which doesn’t serve their cause there will always be innovative people devising other means of distributing it. Governments can’t legislate fast enough to keep pace with creative technology.

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