Federal government quietly changes copyright document

The department has removed any information initially in the document relating to the proposal for a "streamlined" process for copyright owners to obtain subscriber details via ISPs

The Attorney’s General Department (AGD) has made unannounced changes to its latest discussion paper on copyright, removing a proposal for a streamlined process for copyright owners to access user details from ISPs for legal reasons

The original document (PDF), entitled Revising the Scope of the Copyright ‘Safe Harbour Scheme’ & the Process of Seeking ISP Subscriber Details in Copyright Infringement Matters, has been altered to just Revising the Scope of the Copyright ‘Safe Harbour Scheme’ with any information around the proposed streamlined process removed.

The department has removed a paragraph from the paper’s introduction which reads, “In addition, the Government is also seeking comments on whether there is a need to establish a more streamlined process for copyright owners to obtain subscriber details from Internet Service Providers (ISPs) for legal proceedings.”

It also eliminated the entire portion of the document relating to the proposal the introduced a streamlined process, which was subtitled, ‘Streamlining the Process of Seeking ISP Subscriber Details in Copyright Infringement Matters’.

“There may be advantages in considering whether it is desirable to adopt a more streamlined procedure for copyright owners to identify ISP subscribers who engage in online copyright infringement,” the original document reads.

“The Government considers that any streamlined process should require judicial oversight and take into account the legal obligations of ISPs under both the Privacy Act and the Telecommunications Act.

“While such a process would also involve ISPs, it is important to keep any regulatory burden to the minimum necessary to make the procedure effective.”

A spokesperson for the AGD told Computerworld Australia, that the initial document was actually a draft mistakenly posted on the department’s website.

“The Department is currently working on a number of copyright policy issues relevant to the digital environment,” the spokesperson said. “A draft document which incorporated other issues not included in the Safe Harbour review was mistakenly posted on the Departmental website. It was removed as soon as the error came to light.”

Despite not yet announcing the change, the spokesperson said the department will post a clarification on the AGD website.

"We believe that the ongoing departmental convened discussions between ISPs and content owners is currently the most appropriate forum to address these issues."

The redaction of information has been slammed by Pirate Party Australia which has labelled the department’s actions as unacceptable.

“This is an unacceptably opaque attack on our civil liberties, and only further highlights the Government's continual attempts to limit the public's involvement in any governmental decision making,” Pirate Party president, Rodney Serkowski, said on the party’s blog.

"Of course, this could only be administrative incompetence, but the previous actions of the Attorney General's Department do not lend themselves to this explanation."

Follow Chloe Herrick on Twitter: @chloe_CW

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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