Sunday, November 15, 2009

Copyright Cartel Can't Catch Criminals

We all know that the copyright cartel are trying to get a draconian ACTA treaty passed. We know that they are doing this to try to improve the bottom line of their dying business model. We know that they think that any kind of copyright infringement is stealing from the mouths of their starving, little babies.

The main points of difference between Pirate Party Australia and the copyright cartel is that firstly, we think that non-commercial copyright infringement is fine, as creativity is at an all-time high, and the only reason for copyright protections is to encourage creativity (though we think it is good if people choose to pay the artists as thanks for their efforts), and secondly, we think that any laws that need to be introduced in order to enforce a ban on non-commercial copyright infringement is anathema to maintaining a free society.

Where Pirate Party Australia and the copyright cartel agree is that commercial copyright infringement is wrong. Granted, we think that copyright should last for significantly less time than the 150 years that it typically lasts when something is produced by a youngish person, and while we know that no kind of copyright infringement is stealing as the cartel constantly would have us believe, we still think that commercial copyright infringement is wrong.

So why isn't the copyright cartel going after the commercial infringers? Sure, we occasionally hear about someone being busted with a garage full of burned DVDs, but they could be catching people commercially infringing copyrights without even needing an investigation or a warrant. How so, you say? Yes, that's right, I heard you. Well, I'm glad you asked, because it means I get to recount a tale from my youth, which happened earlier today, though with my bad knees, I might be exaggerating to say 'youth.'

I was at Camberwell market this morning, browsing as is the social convention. I bought a Speedee Add-a-Matic, which is like a ripple carry adder from 1972. It only cost me $10! I'm a nerd, I know. "Objection! Relevance?," I hear you say. Really, that wasn't you? Must have been the TV then. Anyway, while buying treasures that my wife lovingly calls "junk," I saw 3 separate vendors selling pirated DVDs. I confronted each of them to inform them of what they were doing and that for each Lindsay Lohan DVD they sold for $3, they were risking a fine of hundreds of thousands of dollars and 5 years in prison.

The first vendor basically fobbed me off, though there was a language barrier and I'm not sure how much of what I said was understood. The second vendor said someone had given them to her to sell and she didn't realise there was anything wrong with the disks. She took them from display and packed them away. The third vendor had a mix of legal and illegal disks in stacks on a table. When I picked up a disk to show him, he said that it wasn't his and that someone must have put it there. I started going through the stacks of disks, questioning him if this one or that one was also dropped there. I took one from half way down a stack and asked him how one had been dropped underneath other DVDs. He said that he'd bought them from a shop. I recommended he take them back to the shop, but it was clear that this vendor sold pirated DVDs, knowing it was illegal, but just not caring. I only handed him about half a dozen, and he didn't put them back on the table, but he didn't put them away either, and it was clear that they were going back on the table as soon as I stopped annoying him. At this point, I decided to leave and find my very embarrassed wife.

So, back to the point of this posting. The copyright cartel has its priorities wrong. Instead of chasing laws that would allow people to be criminalised without evidence or charge, they could wander down to one of many local markets, bring in a police officer to see the crime of distributing commercially copyrighted material being committed, and have an arrest with evidence and witnesses and all that old-fashioned stuff. They could then find out where the illicit goods were purchased, and follow the links back to the people making the infringing copies, easily obtaining a warrant after collecting the copied DVDs and a statement from the vendor as evidence.

How hard is that? I'm guessing that it's not difficult at all. The main problem from the copyright cartel's point of view is that it requires a bit of work, and it doesn't confer any new power on the cartel. So if the copyright cartel catches criminals without trying very hard, why would legislators continue to help them out by passing stronger laws.

Maybe I'm just being argumentative. After all, I did just get up in the middle of writing this post to tell off a neighbour for watering the garden at the wrong time of the wrong day with the wrong type of hose.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Canadian copyright expert Michael Geist has revealed some details of the ongoing ACTA negotiations, and the result is truly frightening.
Pirate Party Australia has issued a press release about ACTA. Please read it, and if it scares the hell out of you as much as it should, then please consider joining us to help fight against this reckless stupidity.

In short, the world's major powers are negotiating with media companies to create a treaty that would mean that, for example, anyone in the world whose ISP is sent 3 letters claiming some kind of copyright infringement, could potentially be cut off from the internet, permanently.
There would be no charges laid and no court appearance.

In addition, websites like youTube or Google would be forced to police all their content to ensure that none of it breaches copyright. If they don't, they can be penalised heavily for the actions of their users. This will create a major Chilling Effect, where people will be afraid of posting anything, even when entirely legal, for fear that someone might send a complaint that would result in their being disconnected from the internet forever. Services like Google would start taking down legal content as well, for the same reason. How can they risk being accused of harbouring copyright-infringing content, if it might destroy the company?

This whole ACTA treaty enables a massive invasion of privacy, and limits freedom of speech to tyrannical levels. The U.S. spent decades fighting the Soviets in order to protect the same freedoms they are now complicit in destroying.

They ought to be ashamed, but of course, they aren't.

Our Australian government is also deeply involved in this process.
Contact your Senators and your Representative and let them know this is unacceptable!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Facebook thinks I'm gay

I just saw 3 ads on Facebook:
  1. Gay cruises
  2. Hair removal for men
  3. A book by an Australian author about a bisexual doctor.

I don't know how Facebook tries to decide what advertisements people are interested in, but marital status, and the gender of the person to whom one is married appears to not count for much. I guess they think I'm in the closet.

I'm not gay, "not that there's anything wrong with [being gay]."

I marked them all as irrelevant, so I hope that Facebook gets the right idea and starts showing me some ads for gadgets and food.

Maybe Facebook doesn't think much of the Pirate Party.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Pirate Party Australia (PPAU)

The Pirate Party has come to Australia!
Many people will be turned off due to the name. For people who think that intellectual property laws are fine the way they are, they will probably think that the Pirate Party is a bunch of anti-establishment radicals. For those who understand the issue, there will still be many who won't get past the name, and will assume that it's a joke party, like Family First... Oh wait, what?

Anyway, I am looking past the name. The party stands for rolling back copyright and patent protections to what they were meant to be: A device "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." Copyright law was not intended to generate a steady income stream for the great-grandchildren of people who once implemented an idea. It was meant to be used as motivation for people to discover and produce things for the good of humankind.

Another main policy issue of the Pirate Party will be to fight for a Bill of Rights, similar to the one included in the U.S. Constitution. The main areas of focus will be on freedom of speech/expression and on the right to privacy, as well, I am sure, on explicitly stating something equivalent to the 9th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, that rights not being listed in the Bill of Rights, does not mean that the People don't have the rights. The basic idea behind any free society is that the government's power derives from the people. We don't say "Here, take all of our freedom, except these bits we reserve for ourselves." We say "Take this bit of power to maintain social order. Here are some things you'd better not mess with, but don't think that you can control us in ways that we haven't explicitly authorised."

Anyway, these are the main issues of the Pirate Party, and into these categories fall issues like Internet censorship. They are not a single-issue party though, even if not all of their policies are well developed. Their platform seems to be fully compatible with mine, so it's for this reason that I have joined the party, and I am running for President of the party (as well as some other positions should I not be elected as President).

The election will be conducted online at 8pm (EST) on Wednesday 7th October. I would appreciate if you would join (there is no obligation) by Monday 5th October at 8pm so you can vote for me.

If you have any questions, post a comment and I'll get back to you soon.


David Crafti

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Mea Culpa

Hi Petro,

I would like to apologise for assuming that the line breaks in your reply imply that your response was a cut-and-paste job. I have done a test, and I can't verify that this is the case. I would also like to apologise for the confrontational tone that my first two sentences established.

I look forward to your response regarding my other comments.


David Crafti

Not letting him off the hook easily

Hi Petro,

The formatting of your document makes it clear that the response was cut and pasted from a text document edited using notepad.

That means that for all my questions, you have answered me with a cut-and-paste job about just the most obvious issue I raised.

This might be acceptable if I was only asking about internet filtering, but I was trying to get a more general overview of how you feel about the importance of civil liberties, especially freedom of speech, and you have answered me with a response that, quite frankly, I expected to hear.

I understand your opposition to the program based on efficacy, and I also agree with those objections, and I also disagree with Labor's removal of the program that allowed parents to voluntarily use free blocking software.

If Labor announced results which showed that the internet could be filtered with no performance penalties, I would like to know if you would vote that it should be filtered.

This email is not on Today Tonight, so I'm not looking for policy statements designed to cast doubt on the ability of the other side. I already have that doubt. I am looking for a proper, reasoned response that takes into account that we live in a free democracy, and I am looking for assurances that the people who represent me will fight to make sure that I contiinue to live in a free democracy.


David Crafti

Followup from Petro Georgiou

I said "You just lost yourself a customer!"

"Sure, you can use it."

I asked about the filtering scheme from the civil liberties perspective, and Petro answered it from the "Won't somebody think of the children?" perspective.

Expected, but disappointing.

Dear Mr Crafti,

Thank you for your email regarding your concerns with the Federal
Government's plans for a mandatory internet filtering system. I
apologise for the delay in responding to you.

The Coalition fully supports guarding our children from being exposed to
inappropriate internet content, and is of the firm belief that
appropriate adult supervision and guidance should be front and centre of
all online safety efforts.

Almost two years after coming to office with a plan to censor the
Internet the Rudd Government has not even managed to release results for
long overdue filtering trials, let alone come close to actually
implementing its policy.

The trials were supposed to start last December and take a minimum six
weeks, but these were delayed by several months because of a lack of
support from major Internet Service Providers. Results were then
expected sometime in July, but were then further delayed until August or

The Coalition has said from the beginning it was prepared to assess any
credible trial results, but almost two years after coming to office the
Government has failed to produce them, let alone put forward any formal
proposal for consideration.

Previous trials of filtering technology have exposed serious problems
with both the over-blocking and under-blocking of content and concerns
also remain about the adverse impact a national filtering regime could
have on Internet speeds.

Huge doubts also continue to surround the type of content Labor wants to
filter and how it will compile a black-list which would form the basis
of its filtering regime.

The Coalition has consulted extensively in relation to internet
filtering and based on all the current evidence and advice, including
the previous laboratory tests, we have real concerns about the efficacy
of Labor's proposal.

Serious questions also have to be asked about how genuine the Government
is when it comes to improving online safety. Last December it cancelled
the practical program established by the Coalition, which saw free
content filters provided to Australian families for installation on
their personal computers.

These filters were provided on an optional basis and would allow parents
to supplement their online safety arrangements with software that would
be tailored to each individual household's needs.

In relation to criminal conduct online, it is the Coalition's firm
belief that our nation's law enforcement bodies need to be adequately
resourced to monitor and investigate unlawful activity.

Thank you again for taking the time to express your views, which will be
taken into account should the Government put forward any final
proposition for consideration.

Yours sincerely

Petro Georgiou MP
Federal Member for Kooyong

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Political letter - freedom questionnaire

Dear Mr. Georgiou,

I am a constituent and I would like to know what are your plans for
tackling the federal government's plans for instituting a mandatory
internet filtering scheme, which would unnecessarily restrict the
freedoms of all of our citizens, without achieving its stated aim of
stopping child pornography.

I have many issues with the proposed plans:

  • I am a software engineer, and it is my professional opinion that the filtering scheme will not work.

    • It will only block a small subset of the ways that people communicate on the internet.
    • It will cause paedophiles to resort to more secretive ways of communicating and will therefore result in them being harder to catch.

  • It will restrict freedom of expression
    • The secret list of blocked sites, which has been leaked already, contains sites that have nothing to do with child pornography.
    • Some of the sites, such as anti-abortion sites and
      pro-euthanasia are clearly on the list for political reasons, which
      leads to the assumption that sites could be blocked based on the
      political belief of the party in power on any given day.
    • The majority of people, who will not know how to get around the
      filters, will feel a chilling effect due to the possibility that
      upsetting the wrong person will cause their site to be made
      inaccessible to the public.
    • In the cases where sites are made inaccessible, it is blatant censorship.

How do you feel about each of the points raised here?

Where do you stand, in general, on the topic of human rights, and
specifically freedom of speech? Where do you draw the line? Most people
agree that yelling "fire" in a crowded theatre should not be protected,
due to the immediate harm it could cause. People vary on what hate
speech should be allowed. Others believe that anything controversial,
or anything that disagrees with their personal beliefs should be
banned. What do you believe?

What are your core beliefs around the right to privacy? Some people
believe that we should always have the right to be left alone, and that
only with a court order, issued on the grounds of probable cause,
should anyone from the government be able to infringe on that right.
Others believe that any official should be trusted, no matter what, and
that they should be cooperated with, independent of whether they have
cause for a given investigation. Where do you stand?

Benjamin Franklin is often quoted as saying: "Those who would give up
Essential Liberty to purchase a little
Temporary Safety deserve neither Liberty nor Safety" and security
expert Bruce Schneier often speaks about the concept of security
theatre, which is where security procedures are put into place without
regard for their effectiveness, in order to maintain an appearance of
safety. An example of this is at one of the London airports I have
travelled through, there was a procedure where:

  1. People put their belongings, excluding shoes, through the x-ray machine.
  2. People collected their belongings
  3. Some people were herded through to have their shoes x-rayed as well.

To most people, it would seem that this allows suspicious-looking
people to have extra screening in case something is hidden in their
shoes. In reality, however, anyone trying to do anything nefarious, who
might have been caught by having their shoes screened, would just take
anything bad out of their shoes and place it in their luggage at step 2.

How do you feel about security theatre? Are you happy enough for people to lose some freedoms, not be any safer, but feel safer, or would you oppose such measures?

If you think that airline security measures are reasonable, and
considering that many aeroplanes hold no more than a crowded bus, and
far less than a train, would you ever consider instituting the same
kind of screening on those modes of transport as exist on aeroplanes?

Do you believe that people have inalienable rights?

If so, what do you think they are?

I would like to know your opinions, and how you would vote on related
issues, because I have not lived in this area during an election, and I
would like to know whether your beliefs will conflict or align with
mine, and therefore, whether or not I should vote for you at the next

Thanks for your time, and I look forward to your answers.


David Crafti