Australia's government won't disclose its secret copyright meetings because knowing what went on isn't in the public interest

On TechDirt, Glyn Moody reports the outrageous news that the Australian government refuses to release any substantive information on the secret copyright enforcement meetings it held, redacting nearly the entirety of the documents before releasing them to a Freedom of Information request. The government also claims that it can't release a list of attendees because it doesn't have such a list -- that is, the government doesn't know who was invited to its secret, eyes-only copyright meeting. Most orwellian is this, though, from the Attorney General's office: "Disclosure of the documents while the negotiations are still in process, would, in my view, prejudice, hamper and impede those negotiations to an unacceptable degree. That would, in my view, be contrary to the interests of good government -- which would, in turn, be contrary to the public interest."

What this really means is: "All hell will break loose when the public finds out what is being discussed behind closed doors. So what we're going to do is to come up with an agreement in secret, and then present it as a fait accompli, without offering citizens any options to change anything substantive. By contrast, to release the documents, and allow the public to have a say in how they should be allowed to use a critical 21st-century technology, would be contrary to the interests of this very good government, which by definition is identical with the public interest."

Australian Gov't: Not In The Public Interest For The Public To Be Interested In Secret Anti-Piracy Negotiations


  1. Generally, government’s interest and the “public interest” (assuming there is such a thing) are not the same thing. Why would they?
    What is surprising here is the honesty, as opposed to at least pretending…

    1.  The Government’s interest is the people’s interest except in this case it isn’t the government’s interest we are talking about but Corporate interests being pushed through a quasi-governmental process.  Also the people’s interest can’t always left to  the direct decision of the people — look at California.  The state is broke and can’t tax citizens because citizens must vote yes in a referendum to raise taxes — prisoners dilemma.

      I agree this process must be open, because it is neither in the government’s nor public’s interest which is very different than your characterization.

      1. You’re looking at the California situation as if “broke” just happened and as if participation in taxes was voluntary. Both problems can be solved by recognizing what government is and what it is not, and the incentives and accountability of the parties involved.

        I am not recommending more openness (although that’s not bad, but it’s far from sufficient). I am recommending to restrict the powers of governments (kinda like the Constitution suggests, ya know) and moving towards voluntary and peaceful organizations of collective action (as opposed to coercive government action).

        Then the interest of the people will be better represented (a majority mob rule isn’t great to start with, but it clearly leads to a minority rule, which you deplore). The mitigation to corporate interests seizing the unique government powers (taxation, legislation, final arbitration, imprisonment) is to take those powers away. Such powers are denied to individuals, so how is government supposed to acquire such powers that are supposed to be delegated from the represented people?

      2. > The state is broke and can’t tax citizens because citizens must vote yes in a referendum to raise taxes — prisoners dilemma.

        Actually, CA can and does tax its citizens.  It can even raise taxes without a referendum.

        What it apparently can’t do is spend only what it gets in taxes.

        And no, that’s not because of referenda.  The referendum spending is a small fraction of the total spending.  The CA legislature and Governor could pass a budget that is balanced.  They choose not to.

  2. It makes it sound as if the ‘negotiations’ are somehow delicate and that being subjected to the harsh scrutiny of the uncomprehending masses could cause them to fail, to everyone’s detriment.

    Whereas, as I understand it, such negotiations typically consist largely of executives of the music and video industries coming down and saying “This is what we’ll have”, and our elected representatives meekly nodding and murmuring “An excellent choice, sir” before sending the list of demands out to be typed up as a bill.

    I haven’t seen anything to suggest that the ‘negotiating’ process in such cases is plagued by tension and uncertainty or even conflict.

  3. “If the public knew how corrupt we are, there would be outrage! There could be opposition within parliament, and we’d have to dissolve parliament, like Harper in Canada, and our imagined legitimacy would disappear. There could be mass protests, and we’d have to order the police to put them down, and someone might get injured or killed. Better to keep the public from getting too uppity, too above themselves.”

  4. Wealthy men the world around are running scared. Why?

    1. We are communicating, all of us from Africa and round again to Africa and all points in between.

    2. Women are demanding equal rights.

    3. All of those who have been marginalized because of their sexual orientation or gender identity are demanding recognition and equal protection under the law.

    4. There are even people demanding children be protected from their parents ignorance and indoctrination.

    The time is now. Before these criminal bastards install the equipment and software to monitor and control our ability to communicate on a global scale, which has always been the only path to freedom.

    This is why they are afraid of the internet. We are realizing we don’t need them to
    lead us. We don’t need them to act as intermediaries. We don’t need them to tell us what to believe. We are realizing they are irrelevant.

    The biggest fear of any oligarchy is to simply be ignored.

    If we don’t stop them now, then climate change, anti-biotic resistant bacteria, or even a crushing asteroid will only make real the death our species experienced the day our voices were silenced.

    As important as any thing we pass on to our children is the freedom to communicate ideas.

    Without that everything else is just life support for a brain dead body.

    1. Once we got used to cell phones and email, there was no going back. We won’t live without this kind of interconnection any more. When government tries to suppress it, we fight for it. We are all talking now, and it is changing everything.

      We are realizing they are irrelevant.

      Like the record labels.

  5.  This was brought up at Delimiter (the original source of this article) a few times. Here’s one interesting example:

    In the comments, an iinet representative at the meetings explains what’s been going on in there. It seems pretty boring and mundane and very, very unlikely to result in any changes to the current system. iinet has a reputation for being honest with the public so it’s probably true.

    The question is: Why is the government censoring it so heavily now? Are they just trying to avoid the forceful public input they’ve had for things like video game classifications?

  6. It’s okay if they won’t disclose any documents while there is ongoing negotiation. But, when that is ended they must disclose whatever negotiation they agree because a good government will only happen by transparency. Likewise, transparency will only occur by disclosing whatever governments interest. So, whatever government interest is also a public interest. The public has the right to know whatever talked they have during the close door meeting. Non-disclosure of any government interest is tantamount in betrayal of public trust.

  7. In Germany there is something similar with the ACTA negotiations. The documents are not released because giving away names could lead to violence against these people.
    If you think about how much is blacked out regularily it is no wonder that there is no black left for the names. 

  8. Dear government, what is the point of supposedly trying to “protect” the people from knowledge and information?  Only shady deals need be done in the shade….one can only imagine whats evil deals are being done under a blackout.

    1.  “Only shady deals need be done in the shade”

      That is not strictly true, of course (examples: the US revolutionary war, the Undergroudn Railroad before the civil war). But in this case it almost certainly is true.

  9. Vee, der Goovernmint, dezide vether or not yoo, der pooblik, are on a “Need To Know” bazis.

    Zo far, yoo are not. Yoo did not read dat. Ve haff already zed too much.

  10. Copyright and patent protection should both be moved back to the original fourteen years.  Unless someone wants to copy or reverse engineer something, of course.  And distribute it at a profit.  That’s how sick I am of these idea monopolists.

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