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Censorship is sneaky, and it always begins with good intentions. The Australian government started to block websites in 2012 to prevent the spread of child pornography. Now they want the power to block websites that they deem are involved in copyright infringement.
Censorship Creeps Up on You
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in Australia are obligated under law to block websites that are used to promote child pornography. Before this law passed, the people were assured that this power would only be used in the worst cases. Now the government wants to use these powers to block more websites. They say that these sites are helping people get access to illegally obtained content that is protected by copyright law.
Every time a government wants to pass laws legitimizing content blocks, people get worried. It was the same in Australia in 2012, and this is why. These laws can always be used to extend government powers to censor other types of content with the reason that they cause a similar degree of harm. Australians now face the same situation as the US faced when the Stop Online Piracy Act was being pushed by the government. The Australian proposal poses the same problems. All blocks would have to be court approved before they can be implemented. But it has the same lose definitions of what constitutes a site that infringes on copyrights.
Copyright, Piracy and VPNs for Australia
It is true that many people have used VPNs for Australia content access in the past years. It is difficult to get certain content in Australia in a timely fashion. They complained about it for years but still experience lags that can last for several months. Because this is just too long, VPNs for Australia have been a top solution. Some use file sharing sites to search for content that they cannot yet get through other channels.
One major argument against file sharing sites is that they promote content piracy. The thing is, not all file sharing sites house illegal content, and not all content on dubious file sharing sites is illegally obtained. But how can they determine which of these sites has been set up for the explicit purpose of sharing illegal copies of content? The problem with blocking these sites is that legitimate content will be blocked as well.
Another argument for blocking file sharing sites is that piracy is theft. The government wants more power to take down thieves. Yet it is very clear that piracy is not theft. Copyright law is very distinct from laws against property theft. Copyrights prevent people from using content for purposes that it was not intended for, or for longer than it was intended.
The government wants to get rid of these content sources because people are accessing them and downloading content with VPNs for Australia. These VPNS are specifically designed to allow people to access content privately. But blocking file sharing sites to prevent people from getting to an undisclosed number of illicit files is like jailing the whole town to catch one miscreant. At any rate, this is a better analogy of the situation than arguing that piracy is like taking a DVD without paying for it.
Pressuring ISPs to Help
Aside from wanting to impose harsh website blocks, the proposal wants to punish ISPs. ISPs will be held responsible for acts of piracy if they don’t make their subscribers stop doing it. This totally reverses a decision just two years ago that specifically absolving ISPs for the actions of their customers. The problem here is that if VPNs for Australia are used for private internet access, ISPs will not be able to know which users are using what sites. Next thing you know, the government is going to force ISPs to shut down the Internet access of all subscribers who use VPNs for Australia because they deem that VPNs for Australia are used to infringe copyrights. Even if this doesn’t happen, ISPs would have to conduct secret surveillance on their subscribers to monitor who might be downloading illegal copies of files. And we don’t need to go into the privacy blitzkrieg that this would cause.