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New Australian Copyright laws set to make us all Criminals.

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It’s no secret that politicians and technology don’t mix – and when it’s left up to the Australian government to make decisions on how technology vs copyright laws should be applied – what started out as good intentions can only end as one big muddle.
According to  Professor Brian Fitzgerald (Head of Law at QUT) – the new Australian Copyright laws (set to be passed through parliament before years end) – "have the potential to make everyday Australians in homes and businesses across the country into criminals on a scale that we have not witnessed before".
One of the most scary aspects of the proposed changes, is that the new laws allow police to charge people with ‘criminal’ offences (including AUD$1300 on the spot fines) – for copyright breaches. In the past the copyright owner had to instigate ‘civil’ proceedings against offenders – which meant in *most* cases – common sense prevailed and action was taken only where necessary (ie. it was just people who were redistributing copyrighted works en masse – although a small handful of very unlucky people also sued to ‘set an example’).
Unfortunately while the bills aimed to initially provide exceptions to the rules (to allow for legitimate usage of copyrighted materials on things such as MP3 players, people with DVRs/VCRs) – a complete lack of understanding has left most of us in the lurch (and most modern technologies were not covered by exceptions). Under the new changes – the laws aimed to "lower the standard of proof" required to charge someone with copyright infringement – which means in some cases just owning an Ipod, Camera, Mobile Phone, DVD recorder etc might land you in jail. (see article from theAge – "The $65000 question: do you  own an Ipod")
There’s also some very harsh implications of these laws with regards to popular songs – the following example highlights just how everyone could be at risk (see full article – "New Copyright Laws Risk Criminalsing Everyday Australians"):
"As an example,” said Mr Coroneos, “a family who holds a birthday picnic in a place of public entertainment (for example, the grounds of a zoo) and sings ‘Happy Birthday’ in a manner that can be heard by others, risks an infringement notice carrying a fine of up to $1320. If they make a video recording of the event, they risk a further fine for the possession of a device for the purpose of making an infringing copy of a song. And if they go home and upload the clip to the internet where it can be accessed by others, they risk a further fine of up to $1320 for illegal distribution. All in all, possible fines of up to $3960 for this series of acts – and the new offences do not require knowledge or improper intent. Just the doing of the acts is enough to ground a legal liability under the new ‘strict liability’ offences.”
I also heard on the radio – that sports fans were warned they could be charged for singing copyrighted songs at the cricket this summer.
I don’t think a single politician is going to be safe from this either – so I wonder who will be the first to be forced to resign for breaching one of these new laws.
Even our national anthem is copyrighted (I think) – it doesn’t get more crazy then this!
And back to the topic of this blog – it also raises the issue of whether running Vista Media Center in Australia is going to be illegal too.

Written by mobilewares

November 21, 2006 at 1:48 am

Posted in News and politics

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