Google: Aussie Law Threatens ‘Net

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Australia may make changes to its copyright laws that, according to Google, would cause the Internet to “promptly grind to a halt.”

The Federal Government, which proposed the changes, maintains that it is only “modernizing” the laws.

“At present, Australian citizens technically break the law whenever they record their favourite television program or copy or download music for their own use,” the Sydney Morning Herald reports. “The new laws will create an exemption for fair use’ and give effect to Australia’s intellectual property obligations under the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement (FTA).”

“Fair use” is a subjective term, though. In an interview with ABC News Online, Dr. Matthew Rimmer, a copyright law expert, pointed out the potential problem. The copyright law changes would “protect libraries, archives and research institutions but leave commercial entities like Google out in the cold,” he said.

Rimmer also pointed out the amount of time Google has spent in court lately.

“Given the amount of litigation that Google has been involved in the last year, I think they’ve got very genuine fears that they could be subject to copyright actions in Australia . . . . In the past when Google has been sued . . . one of the things it did is take down its links and content,” he added.

Google’s legal team is in fact already on the move, and has submitted a warning to the Australia’s senate.

TODAY online relayed that statement. “Given the vast size of the Internet, it is impossible for a search engine to contact personally each owner of a web page to determine whether the owner desires its web page to be searched, indexed or cached,” the company wrote.

Andrew McLaughlin, Google’s senior counsel and head of public policy, also blasted the proposed changes.

He claimed that, if implemented, they will “condemn the Australian public to the pre-internet era and will place them at a serious competitive disadvantage with those in other countries who have such access.”

McLaughlin may not have been quite as angry as that quote might indicate, however.

He also said, “Respectfully, Google believes that the bill fails significantly to bring Australia’s copyright act fully into the digital age.”

The Australian Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock, defended the proposed laws in a radio interview.

“If you have schools and universities on the one hand saying it doesn’t go far enough and you’ve got copyright owners on the other say it goes too far, we’ve probably got it about right,” he said.

Google and its supporters aren’t the only ones unhappy with the situation, though. ABC News Online reported that the changes may also “make it illegal to download music onto MP3 players.” That detail may grab much more public attention than any statement from Google could.


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Doug is a staff writer for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest eBusiness news.

Google: Aussie Law Threatens ‘Net
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