No Coalition policy on data retention, copyright infringement

The Coalition will join Labor in not going to this Australian federal election with any policy on mandatory data retention or copyright infringement, Shadow Attorney-General George Brandis has told ZDNet.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

Australia's Shadow Attorney-General George Brandis has told ZDNet that Coalition policy on data retention and copyright infringement will be decided after the election, if the party forms government.

The joint parliamentary committee on intelligence and security earlier this year declared that a government proposal to force telecommunications companies to retain metadata — the information about communications such as a phone number, location, and duration of a call — for up to two years should be left to government to decide whether to implement and has suggest. The current Labor government has said that it will consider the recommendations and look at further discussion before implementing such a proposal.

Brandis, who admitted today during an Australian Financial Review debate against his Labor counterpart Mark Dreyfus that the Coalition and Labor are mostly bipartisan on the issue of national security legislation, told ZDNet after the event that like his Labor counterpart, no decision on a policy on data retention has been made.

"We have not yet made any decision. The shadow Cabinet has not yet considered the report from the parliamentary committee," he said.

In the course of the joint committee's investigation, Brandis, who was a member of the committee, raised concerns about the data retention proposal. He stated that it was the issue of most concern in all of the policy proposals submitted to the committee as part of the national security legislation proposals, but was "left obscure" in the document.

Dreyfus today reiterated that a re-elected Labor government would respond to the committee report after the election, but said that national security is an "important imperative" for the government.

"I'm very confident that there will be continuing debate in Australia. I'm looking forward in our next term to engaging in that debate, and, if necessary, bringing in change," he said.

On the issue of copyright reform, the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) is in the process of preparing a report for the government at the end of November that will likely make recommendations around changing the Copyright Act to introduce a fair use regime that aims to be technology neutral. Brandis told ZDNet that changes in technology should not dilute the rights of copyright owners.

"My general approach to copyright and intellectual property issues is to be — I mean there are no absolutes in this space, of course — but my general disposition is to be protective of the intellectual property rights of rights holders," he said.

"I don't think that a change of platform or format should as a matter of logic or principle have the effect of diluting or attenuating the rights of rights holders."

The Attorney-General's Department has also been looking to develop an industry-led response to online copyright infringement, which would include an "education" notice scheme, where users are warned when their ISP is informed by the content owners that the user has infringed on copyright. The current government has indicated that its decision on whether to implement such a scheme will be included in its response to the copyright reform report, but Brandis has said that it is not a policy the Coalition will take to this election.

"I've discussed that with many stakeholders, but that is a matter we will discuss in the event we were to be elected. It is not a policy that we're taking to this election."

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