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Monday, 22 June 2015
Page: 4028

Senator LEYONHJELM (New South Wales) (13:09): I rise to oppose passage of the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015. I do so because the bill is vaguely drafted and unlikely to achieve its aims. In addition, it aims to protect rights holders at everyone else's expense, which is not how the rule of law is supposed to work. The bill seeks to amend the Copyright Act 1968 to enable rights holders to obtain an injunction to block foreign-based online locations whose primary purpose is to infringe or facilitate the infringement of copyright. Website blocking is a drastic remedy and a blunt tool. The bill has the potential to be used against a range of legitimate sites and has inadequate protections for non-party interests. Meanwhile, placing increased emphasis on enforcement without addressing the other overdue reforms of the Copyright Act risks a ridiculously unbalanced copyright regime.

Australia already lacks a general fair-use defence to claims of breach of copyright. This is why, to take one recent and very silly example, NSW Premier, Mike Baird, was forced to take down his amusing 'mean tweets' video before the last state election—not because some of the tweets contained filthy language, but because of some of the music he used in the background to his video. There is a desperate need for reform of this area of the law, but it has been left untouched. Instead we have been presented with a piece of legislation that fails in several respects. First, it has inadequate protections for freedom of speech and freedom of access to information, which could result in access to legitimate content being blocked. Affected parties such as consumers and institutions are unable to seek revocation or review of injunctive orders. There is no extension of safe harbours, which would provide rights holders with a simple way to take down infringing material, or for ISPs to distinguish themselves from a copyright infringer using their services. There is no oversight nor any indemnities to track and protect against overblocking or other technical issues. There is a serious possibility that online tools and dual purpose sites such as VPNs, cloud storage, URL shorteners and compression tools may be blocked. As people in this place know, we—parliamentarians, our staffers and parliamentary employees—all use a version of a VPN in order to log into the Australian Parliament House website remotely. Whenever we log into the APH network with our remote access tokens, our location is always seen as Canberra. This alone suggests that little thought has gone into the drafting of this bill. It is a bad idea to draft in haste and repent at leisure.

I will support the Greens' amendments to this bill and, if they pass, I will reconsider my opposition to the bill. However, that none is expected to pass reflects poorly on Labor and the coalition and their once proud tradition of support for innovation and technological progress in this country. Once again, this is very bad law.