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Wednesday, May 16, 2007


That Decryption Key and Copyright Law in Australia

Here at the House of Commons, we know that there is a certain decryption key doing the rounds of blogs, but we have not joined the blogger masses in actually posting this to our site. While some of you might disagree with our decision not to publish this code, an article in the Sydney Morning Herald a few days ago is a strong reminder of why, in Australia, now isn't a good time to be doing silly things over copyright law.

In the article, penned by Dylan Bushell-Embling, House of Commons friend Dr. Matthew Rimmer points out that while the chance of being prosecuted for posting the key is "slight", it is still illegal under Australian copyright law given the new provisions that were implemented under the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement and last year's Copyright Amendment Act. Read more here.

The situation of Hew Griffiths is noted in the SMH article, and perhaps Australian bloggers should be even more careful regarding any actions that might possibly infringe copyright law given Griffiths's current position. My housemate Abi blogged about Hew Griffiths back in February, where in the blogpost title the question was asked, "The David Hicks of the Copyright World?" (See that post here). Griffiths was extradited to America for breaches of copyright law and will be sentenced for these copyright crimes on June 22. Griffiths faces 10 years in prison plus the possibility of a very hefty fine.

A few months ago my housemate Abi posted an xkcd cartoon featuring the immortal words, "Sometimes I just can't get outraged over copyright law" (see that post and cartoon here). I find that's particularly the case when there's something in copyright law that's particularly outrageous, and the current climate (as we will discuss in other posts later this week) seems to fall into that category.


Anonymous Matthew Rimmer said:
It is worth adding that the US Attorney General has been boasting about the extradition of Griffiths.

Prepared Remarks of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Coalition Against Counterfeiting and Piracy

WASHINGTON, May 14 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following are
prepared remarks of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales to the U.S.
Chamber of Commerce Coalition Against Counterfeiting and Piracy:
Good morning. I'm pleased to be here to speak with you again about the
importance of intellectual property issues and what we're doing about them
at the Department of Justice.
Now, I don't have to tell anyone in this audience how important IP
protection is to our economy and to preserving America's competitive
position in the global marketplace. And I hope it is also clear by now that
we at the Justice Department are committed to enforcing the law in this
area and to pushing for even stronger legislation to protect American
businesses and their intellectual property.
The President's Strategy Targeting Organized Piracy Initiative is a
comprehensive and coordinated plan for federal agencies to work together to
crack down on the growing trade in counterfeit and pirated goods. The
Department's Intellectual Property Task Force is the cornerstone of our IP
efforts. Its work is important to me, and for that reason I have asked my
new chief of staff, Kevin O'Connor to serve as its chair.
The Task Force's efforts to improve criminal IP enforcement have led to
substantial increases in federal investigations and prosecutions of IP
violations. We are dedicating more resources than ever before to the
protection of U.S. intellectual property rights, with a special emphasis on
prosecuting health and safety cases.
While crimes like IP theft may appear harmless to some, we know that
the reality is much different. Imagine a heart patient undergoing emergency
surgery at a hospital that unknowingly purchased substandard counterfeit
surgical equipment or medications.
These crimes, as we all know, also have a direct impact on our economy,
costing victims millions of dollars and, if left unchecked, diminishing
And so last year, the Department committed to increasing the number of
IP prosecutions and improving our international cooperation and outreach
efforts. With the good work and dedicated efforts of U.S. Attorney's
Offices and law enforcement across the country, including our partners in
the Department of Homeland Security, we accomplished those goals.
For example, in 2006, we convicted 57 percent more defendants for
criminal copyright and trademark offenses than in 2005. Of those
convictions, the number of defendants receiving prison terms of more than
two years increased even more sharply -- up 130 percent.
Increased enforcement, across the government, and stiffer sentences
send an important message to these counterfeiters and pirates that we take
their crimes seriously, and we will punish their actions.
These are complicated cases, and we need a strong nationwide network to
bring good cases and to win them. We now have 230 federal prosecutors
around the country who have been specially trained to handle IP
More than ever before, the Department and our partners at all levels of
government are reaching out to industry, especially groups like the
Coalition Against Counterfeiting and Piracy -- because we know that we
cannot do it alone.
Earlier this morning Secretary Gutierrez and I sat down with the
Chamber's anti-counterfeiting and piracy leadership council for an informal
discussion. Such meetings are important in keeping us informed about the
concerns of intellectual property owners.
For example, in March, I sat down with a cross-section of top-level
anti- piracy executives to discuss intellectual property rights
enforcement. One of the major concerns highlighted was the importance of
international cooperation between governments. Strong enforcement here in
the United States is important, but it is not enough.
People around the world enjoy the fruits of the hard work of our
creative communities, and modern technology gives IP owners unprecedented
opportunities to distribute their works to a worldwide audience. But the
same technology that allows for legitimate widespread distribution to
consumers has also made it relatively easy and inexpensive to peddle
pirated and counterfeit products without regard to international borders.
And criminal organizations benefiting from IP theft have become more
sophisticated and more organized. They hide in the economic shadows to
exploit any weaknesses in our enforcement efforts, and then use the
proceeds of their theft to finance other criminal enterprises.
In order to further our international work, last year the Department
placed the first-ever IP Law Enforcement Coordinator in Bangkok, Thailand.
This summer, we will be establishing a second coordinator in Eastern Europe
in Sophia, Bulgaria.
As part of our efforts to build international cooperation in law
enforcement, earlier this year I also traveled to Brazil, where I met with
government officials to talk about what we can do together to combat IP
crime. We've had some important joint operations with Brazil, and our frank
discussions are an important part of setting the stage for even more
cooperation down the road. And next week I will be discussing ways to
improve IP enforcement with my G8 colleagues in Munich.
A few weeks ago we had a milestone case of international cooperation on
IP crime when Hew Raymond Griffiths of Australia pled guilty to conspiracy
to commit criminal copyright infringement. Griffiths was the leader of one
of the oldest and most renowned Internet piracy groups, called DrinkOrDie,
and he was the first person ever to be extradited to the United States for
online software piracy.
This criminal ring was estimated to have caused the illegal
reproduction and distribution of more than $50 million worth of pirated
software, movies, games and music. Griffiths boasted that he was beyond the
reach of U.S. law enforcement.
It took several years, and a lot of hard work by dedicated
professionals, but we showed that just as the pirates and counterfeiters
can operate beyond borders, so can we.
Finally, in order for us to protect the intellectual property that is
so important to our Nation, and to meet the global challenges of IP crime,
our criminal laws must be kept updated.
Therefore, today I am transmitting to Congress the Intellectual
Property Protection Act of 2007. This legislation would provide stronger
penalties for repeat offenders and increase the maximum penalty for
counterfeiting offenses if the defendant knowingly or recklessly causes
serious bodily injury or death.
And the bill would hit the criminals in their wallets by strengthening
restitution provisions, and making sure they forfeit all of their illicit
profits as well as any property used to commit their crimes.
IP theft is not a technicality, and its victims are not just faceless
corporations -- it is stealing, and it affects us all. Those who seek to
undermine this cornerstone of U.S. economic competitiveness believe that they are making easy money; that they are beyond the law. It is our responsibility and commitment to show them that they are wrong.
Thank you.
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