The Internet Has Not Changed – But Malcolm Has!

Oh, how the mighty will flip-flop when the political need arises – right?

The government has released a discussion paper through Communications Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, and Attorney-General George Brandis, with a view towards having internet service providers police the illegal downloading of content.

“The Abbott government has moved to crack down on illegal downloading, saying internet service providers (ISPs) will be forced to take ‘reasonable steps’ to prevent it – including possible sanctions against offending customers.”

The Malcolm Turnbull who jointly released this ‘discussion paper’ is the same Malcolm Turnbull who – (after the so-called ‘iiTrial’ was resolved in favour of the ISP, iiNet) – said this in April 2012:

“It is very, very, very difficult if not impossible for someone that is just selling connectivity, just providing bandwidth to then be monitoring what people are doing.”

So in 2012 this kind of monitoring was “very difficult” or “impossible” – but now it is something Turnbull and Brandis wish to impose upon ISPs, by way of law?

Is it suddenly “less impossible” to do this kind of detection?

BitTorrent – (overwhelmingly the most common way to download illegal content online) – and the internet traffic it generates is not necessarily difficult to detect. There have been tools around to detect it on your network for at least a decade.

So Turnbull was wrong about that in 2012; he would also be wrong about it in 2014 if it was still what he believed.

You see, the problem for anyone seeking to prosecute – (or even just warn or penalise) – someone for obtaining copyrighted material using BitTorrent, is that unless you actually subpoena the hard drive of the user that may contain the material and prove conclusively ownership of that hard drive and demonstrate that the material is actually there, evidence gained from network traffic can be quite circumstantial at best.

In a number of cases around the world, the IP address assigned to a user by their ISP has been found to not conclusively show that traffic associated with that IP address is necessarily associated with the account holder.

That is, just because traffic might have come from the IP address an ISP has assigned to your account, it does not necessarily mean it was you – the account holder – who generated the traffic.

There may be gigabytes of BitTorrent traffic coming through your router – but is it you generating it?

Is your neighbour leaching your wi-fi? Has someone spoofed your IP address to hide themselves from easy detection?

Sounds like reasonable doubt to me.

Some even suggest that you should open your wi-fi up to the public to create even more doubt – because “hey, my wi-fi is open, it could be anyone!”

Even if the government were able to come up with something workable – (I doubt they can) – the serious downloaders will just find another way. The problem will be forced even further underground.

A lot of time, money, effort, and grandstanding will have been wasted.

Further, the costs ISPs would have to bear to police this activity – (and to support proposed data retention activities) – would be passed onto consumers, and has been labelled “an internet tax”.

Kind of goes against Turnbull’s other pet theory of “more affordable internet for consumers”, doesn’t it?

It is interesting to note from the same Delimiter article from 2012, author Renai LeMay makes the following point:

“However, Turnbull’s statements this week don’t really give us any insight into what the Coalition’s actual policy is on this important issue.”

I guess we have that insight now – don’t we?

Most stupidly of all, even if Turnbull was right in 2012 about the difficulties – (read: “almost impossible”) – in policing this activity, why does he suddenly believe differently now?

Turnbull has flipped his stance, for nothing other than political convenience – and the potential and impending signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an agreement feared by many advocates of online freedoms, and which contains many provisions pertaining to copyright.

But you know, I guess we shouldn’t expect anything less from Malcolm by now – right?