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More Australian Insanity: Forwarding Mail Illegal (updated) 256

lpontiac writes: "People have been making noise about the new Australian copyright laws making web caching and Playstation mod chips illegal ... and now, the Australian attorney-general has come out and stated that the new laws also make it illegal to forward email without the explicit (ie written) permission of the person who wrote the email. (Just as surprising to me is that the article claims to know who Claire Swire is :)" Update: 03/04 11:22 PM by T : kipling writes "Regarding the Australian e-mail copyright story, the ABC news site says that the Australian Attorney-General has dismissed these claims. Looks like another news ltd beatup." Update: 03/05 02:55 AM by T : And thanks to downunderrob, here is the AG's press release calling the idea "ridiculous."
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More Australian Insanity: Forwarding Mail Illegal

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  • It's always been impolite, or bad etiquette, to forward emails in full or in part.
    I'd be tempted to say that it always has been illegal, due to the fact that the original author has copyright whether or not he/she explicitly says so. Any legal sharps out there conform or deny that?
    However, will they make eating peas by shovelling them onto your fork illegal next?

  • Okay, so nobody in Australia can forward email without permission...there goes a lot of things like a tech-support rep forwarding a sticky question or problem from a customer to their second-tier people. Especially (heaven forbid!) if it includes a screenshot of the error message.

    What's going to be targeted next? Blogging with embedded links or images? (I know, some people would say "big fscking deal", but to others, it IS a big fscking deal...think about it!) Web pages that generate email to their operators, like feedback forms or catalog requests?

    IMHO the Australian government, with this one piece of legislature, has both insured that their country stays unnecessarily insular AND set a very dangerous precedent for other governments to look at.

    Just my 2c (US) worth...donate the change to your sysadmin's Vegemite fund.

  • Screw the repurcussions of forwarding love letters or meat pie recipes...with this legal bit in their belt expect Aussie corporations to even more agressively pursue individuals who forward the "The Manager of Company X Hates All of You" memos.

    I'm terrified to think of what form the US appropriation of all this legislation (rating systems, anti-mod, copyrighted forwarding) will take.

    Sen. Tankerbell: "Well look at all of this handy dandy law making a goin' on Down Under. They've done all the writin' for me, and most of it's in Amurican!"


  • Calling Democrats socialists has precisely the same semantic content as calling Republicans fascists.
  • sounds like you have a case of americanitis. for all you know that person is from ecuador. australia is a joke. the sooner you realize that the better.

  • What the hell is going on down there in Australia? Since when was the attorney general in charge of drafting laws? What kind of a country is it where laws are broad or ambiguous enough that the attorney general could re-interpret them? It sounds to me like that country has a bad case of the government not being answerable to the people. When that happens its time to either reform it or overthrow it.

    Before I was born my parents had the opportunity to move to Australia. I'm glad they didn't.

    Lee Reynolds
  • Hey - I just had an interesting thought. We (the free software community) have a powerful weapon in our arsenal against stupidty like this. We should change the GPL to state that all organizations listed on a particular web site are suspended from using GPL'ed software for any purpose. Then, we can start listing off organizations like the MPAA, RIAA, australian government (copyright office), etc., at will, when they do something bad. ;)

    All men are great
    before declaring war

  • More importantly: Is it illegal for you to forward my own email back to me when you have a complaint about it?
  • I am not a lawyer, so don't rely on this as legal advice, but I believe that in the US, amusingly named the Supreme Court case Hustler v. Moral Majority (1988?) would apply.

    In that case, the Moral Majority had sent a copyrighted letter to some of its members complaining about Hustler Magazine. Hustler then reproduced the letter in its entirety and distributed it to a much wider audience to solicit financial contributions in support of freedom of speech. The Moral Majority sued for copyright infringement, and the Supreme Court sided with Hustler, ruling that this kind of reproduction was fair use, even though the document was reproduced verbatim in its entirety and used for financial gain.

    This type of free speech is very important in maintaining accountability. There are so many times when I have seen subtle threats or other underhanded tactics perpetrated by email and am glad that the victim of those attacks posts this "private" email publicly. The possibility that such email abuse may be made public by the victim provides an important check. This is especially important where the perpetrator knows that the victim is unlikely to have the resources to spend ~$100k per instance to spend on the next best recourse, litigation.

    For instance, if we did not have this right, you can bet that a lot of spam would be written to fit whatever the legal criteria of "private" was to prevent victims from forwarding the evidence.

  • by kipling ( 24579 ) on Sunday March 04, 2001 @01:46PM (#385905) Homepage
    Some background:
    • The current govt is on the way out later in the year. It has a 50's mindset, which is when everyone wishes they had last seen this mob of unimaginative no-hopers
    • Last election (compulsory voting + preferential voting, remember) they (the conservative coalition made up of the two right-wing parties, named, ironically enough, the liberal and national parties) managed to sneak back into office despite getting (after redistribution of preferences) less than half the vote. They took this as a mandate to introduce a GST (aka consumption tax)
    • I was in the majority who didn't vote for them (my first pref wasn't the other major party (labor) either, due to the local candidate, but he would have got my preference in the end anyway)
    • Yes, as the other posters have noted, mainstream media interests are just as active in shaping public opinion and policy here as they are elsewhere. For this reason, I am taking this at face value (ummm, where is the source... Rupert Murdoch's news.com) until I see it elsewhere (thank God/Allah/QEII/Menzies for the ABC). It hasn't appeared on Richard Alstons (the AG) media releases, nor does it appear in the other major papers I have looked through this morning. There is no specific mention of anything of this sort in the amendments to the copyright act [law.gov.au] but that doesn't mean that it isn't covered. If I find something out, I will see if I can get an "update" to the article.
    • There is a quick workaround that I will use if this turns out to be legit -- stick a short "permission" notice in your standard e-mail footer. I am not really sure how this works with transcontinental e-mail. Maybe one day we will all be using a "Permission-to-forward:" mail header that mail clients will be forced to obey.
  • You think Australia doesn't already know what goes on in electronic communications?

    Where did the first admission of the existence of Echelon come from? (Australia!)

    They're in on it, along with the Kiwis, Brits, Canuks, and of course, the land of the free, the home of the brave, and the most evil of all privacy invading countries, the USA.

    Just assume that all your electronic communications are public and you'll be fine.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I agree that this law is one of the stupidest laws ever passed here in this sun-burnt land, but you shouldn't for a second think that all Australians support or even approve of it. Don't let the ideas of a few ignorant people in power lead you to believe that our entire nation is full of such idiotic try-hards who fear technological change and progress as much as an (insert deadly Australian animal here).

    And as for us being a nation that has banned guns, that is one law that i happen to support. Primary producers (ie farmers) are still allowed to own them, it's the semi-automatic firearms owned by the general public (rifles & handguns alike) that came under the microscope.

  • Err, wait a minute, what was the discussion about again?

    Saving the children! Er.

    All men are great
    before declaring war

  • Who knows, maybe you'll have to sign a waiver and send it to your ISP as well as your recipient's, giving them permission to forward. Even if it is encrypted, it's still data. If I had an email that read "I eat cheese", and I fucked it around to get "eat I cheese", I'm still the author.
  • These rules apply in the US as well. The coopyright law is the same except now Oz law states that email is a "created work". In the US email is also a "created work" and has the same protection, its just not listed in the CFR. You could nail someone for copyright infringment for publishing your email in the US but the court could decide the publishing was "fair use". Same thing could happen in Aus as well. If I send email to the editors @ "the Age" (a local news paper), they can assume I intended for them to publish it and publish it under fair use.

    This is not new, its just clearing up some confusion. Check out the legaleese sections of any book publishing site (like ora.com or lonely planet are two I know). They mention that they have the right to use email you send them in their books.

    Transport of a message is not replicating work according to most countrie's copyright rules.
  • Could it be that emails will be sifted to search for copyright hotwords like Coca Cola? Anyone using Coca Cola will automatically have a royalty charge applied to their account?

    Coca Cola® is not a copyright -- it's a trademark. There's a huge difference. They can't prevent you from using their name except if you try to use that name on another product. Trademark exists to prevent people from creating new products with name clashes with yours, and is generally thought to be a good thing, since it prevents customer confusion. Of course, there's abuse of this form of intelectual property (especially by WIPO's domain name dispute policy).

  • (c) 2001 any direct quotes, links, assumptions, thoughts, fantasies, misconstruction of this post is punishable by up to five years in jail down under

  • The sex scandal example is pretty silly. Firstly the guy sent out the email himself (what a braggart). If people want to get the word out, they could treat the whole thing like a copyrighted work and still quote enormous portions of the e-mail, say people can send their annotated version around the world, and you still get the same problem.

    Secondly, how is this law going to be enforced? We could a) have the government read all e-mails and check to see all the notices (as if we love Carnivore enough as is) or b) have somebody sue the person. I think most people will end up ignoring the law (and also not sue their relatives/friends if they are that close).

    Thirdly, copyright law is designed to protect the works of people so they can earn money from it/get credited with the original ideas. It simply states that revenue will be made from each copy or acknowledgement is given. You can't make too many copies of stuff because it theoretically takes away from the benefits given to the author. Of course, how does forwarding one's e-mail give anything (unless its some spammer). Frankly, this just seems like part of the paranoia surrounding cases like Napster. If anything, it should be a privacy law, not copyright law.

    If the government is so concerned, they should enact a law that says your implied permission to do anything with an e-mail is given by simply recieving the e-mail. It should be made a crime for violating a condition set forth in the e-mail. People don't need to see more legal phrases and contracts everywhere.
  • 1) of course it's a joke
    2) I'm not in or from the USA
  • Not true.
    A person always implicitly holds a copyright to something that they create as soon as they create it.
  • by soulsteal ( 104635 ) <soulsteal.3l337@org> on Sunday March 04, 2001 @09:20AM (#385916) Homepage

    Finally, bad spellers and the grammatically incorrect are protected by law. No longer need they fear being mocked and ridiculed forever in a never-ending flood of forwarded e-mails they have destroyed so eloquently. I applaud Australia for taking a stand for the dignity of the CmdrTacos of the world.

  • by litheum ( 242650 ) on Sunday March 04, 2001 @09:25AM (#385924)
    Better than that, you can report the bastards that send you the forwards and have them arrested!
  • Nope, just a bunch of clueless, out-of-touch politicians that will probably be voted out of office at this year's federal election....

  • The one thing that I keep going back to, the one thing that continually puzzles me about all of this is that - given Australia is a Democracy with elected officials - how people can stand for this, how this never seems to be an issue that the general populace takes to heart, and how an ostensibly large number of people support such laws. When an item like this is presented in Slashdot, be it foolish patents, draconian copyright protections, or outrageous MS practices, it is presented as though the subject is stupefyingly logic-defying. The tone of these topics are always "well, DUH!", and yet ordinary people really don't get it.

    I mean 'don't get it' in the literal sense, I assume. They are actually uninformed as to the essence of the laws that get passed. It was like the time I learned that if I get stopped without proof of vehicle insurance in California, there is a $1000 fine, even if you have proof but are a little disorganized and left it at home.

    The unmitigated arrogance of a government beholden to greedy corporations! In this case, a corrupt official, a 'wolf watching the hen-house' allowed the laws to be passed. Chuck Quackenbush, the wolf, has since been railroaded out of office, but did the law revert back to what it was? In no sense of the word.

    Essentially, the problem boils down to Campaign Finance Reform. We have been talking about that for ten years now, but Congressmen maintain that there are Freedom of Speech issues that would be violated. How arrogant of them!

    I'm sorry, we were talking about Australia, weren't we? :)

    Well, it seems that politicians are even more brazen in that country. They therefore hold the light to the map to show us where we are headed if we cannot find some way for the People to keep their government in check. And they are not that far ahead of any other of the governments, they are just a little more brazen.

    It took a few hundred years, but they have finally 'loopholed' and 'lawyerized' the Constitution into irrelevance. God help us all.
  • nice theory, except that

    • all weapons in australia have not been banned nor confiscated. Also most people here, like in most parts of the world, do not see the strong need to own guns. Without other people with guns around, it is not an issue. I mean, I don't know anyone who has been shot, there have been no shootings at schools, universities, etc and "only" a few work-place shootings, mostly by wackos with gun fetishes. "Guns don't kill, people kill, and people with bfg's kill many".
    • the copyright law amendment was introduced by the conservative parties, not our slightly pink (i.e. not socialist by a long shot) labor party. They would give Maggie poll-tax Thatcher a run for her money. Sure they're not as anti-state as in the US but this isn't the US.
    • Since when does "no guns" == "communist" ?
  • ...that this law stops only stops the forwarded messages that we find useful, and expressly permits chain mail forwards! After all, if it says "forward this message to 1000 people within the next hour", that's clearly permission for the content to be forwarded to others.

    This is unbelieveably sad and completely backward. I could possibly see an argument for being able to copyright an email message -- for a subscription-based newsletter for instance -- but come on people, optimize for the friggin' common case! If the sender doesn't want you to forward the message they should have to say so explicitly.

  • Complaining about spam requires forwarding the entire message with complete headers. I haven't had a chance to read the bill yet - it was introduced and went through the committees in 1999 - but it looks like this bill may make spam complaints illegal.

    What I'd like to know is, what were EFA [efa.org.au] doing at the time? The bill was titled "Copyright Ammendment (Digital Agenda) Bill 1999", yet EFA is not listed in the submissions [aph.gov.au] to the committee inquiry. A bill like that screams out as being right down EFA's alley, and this interaction, which seems obscure to most people, would be blindingly obvious to EFA. It looks like they seriously dropped the ball as far as keeping in touch with what the Parliament was doing here.

  • by number one duck ( 319827 ) on Sunday March 04, 2001 @09:04AM (#385939) Journal
    And in related news, showing (paper) birthday cards to your friends and family after you recieve them is ruled an offense, as well as telling anyone about an email you recieved, or reading your email in a public place, or... or....
  • Why must the courts and legislatures of our world continue to think of computers as things foreign to traditional law? Why must they continue to make computer laws and decisions that would be considered unreasonable when applied to the real world

    But in this case what the Telegraph is describing is precisely the application of traditional law. It is giving email the exact same treatment that paper mail gets under current copyright law, and has gotten for a very long time without kicking up any particular controversy.

    You write something, you own the copyright. Others may copy only by fair use or if you give them permission. That's how it is with paper.

  • by JiffyPop ( 318506 ) on Sunday March 04, 2001 @09:06AM (#385945)
    Apparently the aussie government is os the opinion that the web will only be safe and secure for copyrighted works when it is completely useless.
  • Australia starts acting like China and reading their citizen's emails, checking for 'inappropriate material'?
    Australia starts packet sniffing?
    Australia requires all traffic to go through a central server farm, so they can control everything going in and coming out?
    Australia filters web sites?

    Scary stuff. I'm a developer who was considering moving to Australia soon. This is enough to make sure that I don't move there until they stop passing Draconian laws.

  • by xFoz ( 231025 ) on Sunday March 04, 2001 @09:26AM (#385950)
    from the feature creep department...

    >All we have to do is change the name on the button
    >from "Foward" to "Quote"
    >and then nobody is breaking any laws.
  • Does the Australian government know they're quickly making their country into a laughingstock?

    Given how future prosperity will depend on technology to an increasing extent, why are they trying to ensure the emigration of all their geeks?

    Can any Australians here offer insight on the political climate that has created this shortsightedness? Why are they doing this?

  • I think a lot of us has read some of the little half-funny half-scary short stories, mostly speculative bits about what the future could be like. We probably all remember the guy that let his poor girlfriend sneak a peak at his textbooks, even though it was likely to cost him jail time (but didn't). We recently got to read speculation here on the future as affected by the Napster decision.

    I have to say -- this whole situation reads like that. If back in 1998, someone wrote one of these, and said, "...and so people were jailed for forwarding jokes without permission...", it would have seemed funny. Now, it is a mournful day in a world where legislators make laws seemingly without regard to the lives of the people they serve.
  • and I hope he throws someone in jail for 6 years for the heinous crime of forwarding an email. Then maybe we'll get stupid laws like this one thrown out.

    Come on. No substantial copyright exists in any work of less than 200 words, because that's the limit for an excerpt under fair use.

    A colleague forwarded to me yesterday an email from his wife in which she derided overclockers in general and her husband in particular. Now not only is he in trouble for shagging their PC, he's violated her copyright, too.

  • by Daemosthenes ( 199490 ) on Sunday March 04, 2001 @09:31AM (#385957)
    There is a simple way to get around this rule. That is, one only has to attach a notice in your sig, allowing anyone to forward your message. For example:

    Joe H. Schmoe
    *I hereby give you written permission to forward this message*

    Something as simple as that would work, even though I'm not so sure how well it would hold up in court.

  • When you send mail to a mailing list, it's like you're speaking in a public forum...totally different scenario than email to a single person.

  • This could put some SERIOUS teeth into the GPL [gnu.org] in Australia. (it just gets really hard to discuss it.)
  • Actually, attorney-general Daryl Williams has dismissed reports that sharing e-mails has been banned by law. According to an ABC news report, he says for distribution of a personal e-mail to be classed as a breach of the new law, a court would have to find the contents were an original literary work.

    He says it would be difficult for most e-mails to be regarded as original enough to have a copyright placed on them.

    So now we have two criteria to check our email against. Originality and literary quality. What I want to know is how does the following compare:

    -- Dear Bill,
    -- Hows the family? We're OK. The job's giving
    -- me the sh**ts. My boss is a complete pr*ck.
    -- Can't wait to stick it up him. Anyway patience
    -- is a virtue. See you at Dave's on the weekend.
    -- Cheers,
    -- Mike.

    Considering its originality, I'm sure there are a zillion other emails with similar wording. Some of the persons and facts might be different (your boss may be an a**hole). Regarding literary quality? Well, Shakespeare it ain't. Does this mean its non-copyrightable?
  • This is absolutely hilarious. If I receive a snail-mail letter, I am free to do whatever I wish with it. The author cannot use copyright to prevent me from putting that letter in my neighbor's mailbox, throwing it out, or using it as toilet paper. The problem is that legislators are exploiting the fact that there is no tangible manifestation of an e-mail to create rediculous laws that are far more restrictive than anything that governs the use of physical property, like a letter.

  • by brianvan ( 42539 ) on Sunday March 04, 2001 @09:36AM (#385986)
    Guy sitting at computer... In the background you hear "You've Got Mail!"... close up of computer screen, at least 150 messages in his Inbox. He hits the forward button, selects all 50 people in his address book, and hits the send button. Immediately, a kangaroo with boxing gloves appears and knocks the living daylights out of the guy.

    Word appears at bottom: "SPAM"

    Foster's beer bottle shown: "BEEEAAAH!"

    "Foster's. Austrailian for BEEEAAAH!"
    1. I should add a comment in order to ut all my mails under the GPL in my .sig
    2. If I send an insults/threats mail to one of these guys, he won't be able to sue me as I'll explicitely forbid him to forward the only evidence he has.
    3. This is stupid, I'd agree with a suit if the original sender would put an explicit "do not forward" in his mail but the contrary just means that we, by default, refuse our correspondance to be forwarder. IE: we don't assume what we write.

  • With the combined democrat vote in the lower house, the coalition and Democrats had a clear mandate of both majority of voters and majority of states to introduce the legislation.

    But the democrats had said they wouldn't support a GST. Then, once they'd got the votes and got the seats, Meg changed her mind and the democrats swung the GST in.

    I've never voted democrat, and after Meg's duplicity I never will.

  • I was just curious...why did they outlaw email forwarding but not gossip and rumors? Isn't someone going around telling other people a joke i told them just as bad as forwarding it on email?

    I know what I will do, I won't tell anyone any more jokes so they can't possibly tell them to anyone else! Or worse yet, so they can't forward them to anyone else.

  • They would be just as well off to shut off all internet access in Australia. That way, no one would be tempted to break any of these foolish laws.

  • by Mossfoot ( 310128 ) on Sunday March 04, 2001 @09:40AM (#386010) Homepage
    Could it be that emails will be sifted to search for copyright hotwords like Coca Cola? Anyone using Coca Cola will automatically have a royalty charge applied to their account?

    Here's a funny scenario. Say there is an e-mail scam going on. Someone is sending e-mails that promise a good thing, and after reading it, you fear that some foolish people are going to fall for it and lose their life savings. So you send out a warning email, using the body of the text to help people recognize it, as well as demonstrate the hows and whys of it being a scam.

    Theoretically YOU could be fined for doing a public service.

    On a lighter note... what if I emailed something, lost the original, and wanted to send it off to some other people. I go to a friend and ask them to bring it up in their account, and then I email it off to other people... do I have to get written signed permission from myself? :)
  • Actually, how do you think the Reformation (which as we know, changed history)started? It took years for a Bible to be written, while a printing press dramatically cut down print time...so Bibles, tracts could be written much quicker, (but still slow compared to our times) As for the insane laws, there are ways to circumvent them enough and we can tie them up in courts for years... This is why we should have elected Gore the Bore, Georgy Jr will just allow the coporations and the government take over the Net which was meant for us all to be used.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    As an IT professional that had once considered moving to Australia, I can assure you that with this kind of mad hatter legislation will prevent me from ever moving there. I hope the Australian gov't enjoys living in the Infomation Dark Ages. I can't believe they would put their citizens in PRISON for forwarding an email. I thought this was a joke, but I guess this is just another example of the paranoid behaviour of a gov't afraid of FREE SPEECH. U.S.A. and DMCA beware. Limiting free speech is wrong.
  • by dattaway ( 3088 ) on Sunday March 04, 2001 @09:43AM (#386015) Homepage Journal
    Simply forward the offending attachment to abuse@isp, and the prosecutor's office will be contacting you shortly about *your* case.
  • Someone needs to pay for this. The politician who passed this law, and all of those who support it, should be jailed for 5 years, and pay $60k, so they realize what a significant impact on a human life such a penalty imposes.

    Sometimes I get the feeling that the "more equal" citizens of the world think they're playing some big real-life game like age of empires (poking a citizen and making them do something) - completely detached from the people they're hurting.

    All men are great
    before declaring war

  • The illegality stems from breaching the copyright held by the person who originally wrote the e-mail.

    So does this pertain to someone who has included a copyright clause in their email or will the Australian government just conclude on their own the thoughts of the people whose email is in question.

    "It's quite possible that the forwarding of an e-mail could be a technical infringement of copyright," Mr Williams' legal adviser told The Sunday Telegraph.

    Again, this seems to be a broad law created possibly in hopes of deterring people from forwarding an email and delves into perhaps placing a link on a website. The people of Australia should do something against their politicias who seem to want to take away their right to free speech. Suppose your a reporter and have some very good information regarding an article, will you get sued or thrown in jail for quoting something, or linking to a site to prove a point, or make a statement?

    The new measures cover material which already has copyright protection -- such as excerpts from books or song lyrics -- as well as personal messages.

    I guess I can no longer email my friends down under with any links or quotes to something I've seen or read, or heard, since they can face time for looking at it should they innocently reply back with the copy of the message I originally sent them.

    This means a simple message about office gossip, holiday plans or a new romance carries personal copyright and the recipient has no right to forward it without permission.

    Bill Clinton would have liked this law ;)

    Internet Industry Association executive director Peter Coroneos said forwarding e-mail had probably always involved a technical breach of copyright, adding: "It's a matter of whether the authors themselves are likely to be concerned.

    He urged people sending e-mail to spell out whether they gave permission for the content to be forwarded to others.
    Well, someone shed some light on this, it is of a concern of the author not government in this matter, however a law is a law is a law.


    down under [antioffline.com]
  • By saying that the non digital part of the world is "the real world", you're implying that the digital part of the world is not real. That expresses the view that digital and more traditional medias are completely different. Which is the view you say you want to fight!

    Free your mind!
  • Come on. No substantial copyright exists in any work of less than 200 words, because that's the limit for an excerpt under fair use.

    Forget about all that. Let's just use common sense in the courtroom. The question is simple:

    Would the reasonable person expect that forwarding the email in question was in breach of copyright? Was the material sensitive (confidential / private)? Was the plaintiff (if it's a civil case) injured/damaged, or likely to be? Did the email represent significant commercial value? Etc.

    I propose that permission to forward email is given by default and must be explicitly denied, or be obviously (to the reasonable person) denied (because it fits one of the categories above).

    Life is not binary. There is no 1/0, clearcut answer to anything, and laws like this make me livid. As I said earlier, I want everyone who approves of this law as it is (suggested to be) written to spend 5 years in jail, and pay $60k, so they realize how serious these penalties are. Maybe then they would think twice before supporting offensive laws like this.

    All men are great
    before declaring war

  • Hello.
    hundreds and hundreds of people have already read this piece of email, and now YOU are the lucky one. Send this mail to 5 friends, and you'll have luck for a year! But if you break the chain...you could have bad luck for years and years. Just look at what happened to John. He failed to send this note to 5 friends. the next day he was eaten by a gang of ravenous rabid weasels! or what happened to Mary: she DID send this mail to 5 friends. 3 days later she won a million in the lottery. 367 days later though, we sued her for copyright infringement...

  • > They can't prevent you from using their name except if you try to use that name on another product.

    Nope, they can also prevent you from using their name as (part of) your web domain name. As evidenced by the very numerous suits revolving around this issue (etoys vs etoy, etc.)

  • The problem is that the Dem's are essentially the same as the Repub's. They have slightly different hang ups, but they both basically want to control everything and everyone. And after this last election I'm not too pleased with the official Green party either.

    If they weren't so pro-corporation I'd probably be Libertarian, but as it is I'm just libertarian. And this despite knowing how powerless it renders me. I just can't feel that supporting any of those (you fill in)'s is better than nothing.

    If I were to start a party I'd call it the minimalist party, and the basic platform would be that any law must be correctly understandable by at least 60% of a large sample of 8th grade kids. I also want to limit the total number of laws, to, say, 5000.

    And how about this: There can be no more bits of information in the laws of the country than there are in the human genome. Is that too many or too few? And don't forget those 8th graders! They have to understand each piece of it.

    Caution: Now approaching the (technological) singularity.
  • They took this as a mandate to introduce a GST (aka consumption tax)

    With the combined democrat vote in the lower house, the coalition and Democrats had a clear mandate of both majority of voters and majority of states to introduce the legislation.

  • The etoy/eToys thing was rather unique, in that eToys really had no right to make demands to etoy, an organization that existed long before they did, but used legal badgering to get what they wanted and then later give up when they started getting negative publicity. IMO, what's far worse is WIPO's standing on *sucks.com domains, which usually are handed back to the trademark owners, despite the fact a *sucks.com domain is unlikely to cause consumer confusion (don't know about anyone else, but I don't accidently add sucks to the end of URLs). As I said, WIPO's domain name dispute policy just plain sucks, and The Register [theregister.co.uk] seems to love pointing out how much it sucks. But what can you expect from an organization that's sole purpose is to make sure that companies can make as much money as possible.
  • I don't need to copy/forward an email to complain about spam. And i *can* copy the headers, since they are not copyrighted by the author. I think copying the Subject falls under fair use. Also i can forward the message to the author himself. So i think there's still some options left to complain about spam.
  • Since some of these Beasties are intended for sending copies of your mail elsewhere (when you forward something that's explicitly allowed to forward and add some comments) the law should come down pretty hard on those.
  • In Australia, it is not necessary to include a copyright notice in many things. Copyright is assumed (presumed?) unless otherwise stated. Copyright notices are only required if there is ambiguity about who has the copyright.

    I won a legal case where I was not paid for completed work, where I had included a copyright TO THE COMPANY (not me) on the basis that since thay had not paid my fees, the copyright was in question and I was requesting a that they cease and desist form marketing it and that their customers cease and desist from using it until the copyright issue was resolved. Fastest I ever got paid... CEO met me at my bank with a cash cheque and got *immediate* clearance on the cheque.

  • Actually, the Australian Government merely explicitly stated what was already law. International Law at that. So it already applies to you (drsoran) already. But you didn't know about it.
  • You should actually email a couple members of the Australian gov't about your decision and the reasoning. If the Australia gov't finds out that they are not able to attract tech talent because they have some of the stupidest laws in world, they may reconsider. Money talks.
  • *I hereby give you written permission to forward this message*

    This "permission" is and always has been implied when sending email, unless explicitly denied.

    In otherwords, if you're sending email which you don't want forwarded (because 99.995% of sent around the world don't carry this bit), it is your responsibility to state so.

    This email is confidential/proprietary/personal, and the receiver is not authorized to forward it to any external entity.

    There, that was easy - and people have been doing this for years. And note, that you cannot deny forwarding completely, because under fair use rights (in the US & Canada) one has the inherent right to copy for personal use (forwarding to a different account).

    All men are great
    before declaring war

  • There are times when you'd rather not have your email forwarded. That's what copyright is all about and in most cases [http] it should deter others from re-distributing private correspondence.

    whatiscopyright [whatiscopyright.org]

    is a good overview too.

    So who want to inform the australian government...

  • That is the real problem. There was a time, not so long ago (er, ca 1992 or 3) when information was rapidly being freed and it could not be stopped so it roamed the world unfettered and unencumbered. Of course, that was when only the technologically savvy could access this information and the great unwashed masses couldn't. So there wasn't a problem because it was obscure to those in power: they didn't get it.

    Now, ten years later, when they Do understand the intrinsic power of information, they feel they must control the flow and broker each and every transaction between all people on the net (that is, in fact, MS's plan - .NET - to act as broker between each digital transaction).

    This is an informational war between the people of the world and basically corporations of the world (governments playing puppet to the corporate whim). The instrument of control is the Law. The legislators and lawyers are going to find it extremely difficult to control informational flow, but we are seeing - real time! every day something new! - the fruits of their labors: horrible and unenforcable laws that basically make each and every citizen a criminal. Once everyone is a criminal, then all of their liberties are endangered, and they must skulk around, fearful of being caught.

    The only difference that I can see between Winston Smith's sad little grey world and this one is that people don't seem to have the zeal to rat out their neighbors, no one is wearing a red sash. Wait, correct that, I forgot about the model for the (forget what Orwell called them) guys who turn in their neighbors: the Religious Right and Christian Conservatives here in America. Already drug laws have turned half a nation into criminals.

    Now another large chunk will be criminalized - sorry, has been criminalized. Napster-users, anyone who ever burned a disk containing MS Office and gave it to a friend. Basically, an entire nation of criminals, at risk and fearful of exposure. This serves the regime well.

    The reason there will not be reform is that legislators are no longer servants of the people, if they ever were. No, the people are not vested in their country. Not in England where by some strange brainwashing technique (a la 1984) they Act like the Parliament is their friend, not in America where we know the story but admit powerlessness and the inability to organize except to continue to oppress Ourselves (MADD, African_American Rights Moevments, et al), and apparently not in Australia, which probably follows a British model.

    The only power a people are left with is the power to revolt. And at least in America, those in power are preparing for that eventuality, when they get to crush (a la the WTO riot in Seattle) the small Goldstein (Stallman?) rebellion once and for all. The maser would be a really good weapon for that, wouldn't it? SWAT teams with masers and stun guns and tear gas... oh my!

    But, my God! So many criminals, criminalized by such an oppressive regime!

    Believe me, you don't want to see a Bastille Day, where the streets ran red with the blood of the aristocracy. And so ordinary people who have not girded their loins and prepared for the moment will lose their nerve at the critical hour.

    But those who have been planning this moment know what to do. They are seizing the day right now, and will continue to do it forever. Recall that 1984 wasn't about crushing a rebellion forever. It was about warring with people day after day.

    er, sorry so long, but that's how I feel.

  • by Fervent ( 178271 ) on Sunday March 04, 2001 @09:09AM (#386063)
    I can't forward around that chain mail that my 12-18 year old brothers, sisters, and compatriots keep sending me. That sucks.
  • by AFCArchvile ( 221494 ) on Sunday March 04, 2001 @09:09AM (#386067)
    So much for a technological renaissance in Australia. You can't even forward e-mails or cache webpages anymore.

    But then again, who will be only too happy to enforce all of this? Constable Microsoft, that's who.

    I swear, if I ever get a chance, I'll have the DeCSS source code engraved on a metal breastplate and shield and become the anti-MPAA knight.

  • 1. This law needs to use a word other than "forward" for what it is trying to describe. SMTP servers automatically "forward" what you send them. Users often automatically "forward" mail from one of their own accounts to another so they don't have to read 6 different e-mail accounts.

    2. Why does this law exist especially for e-mail and not for generic mail, both e- and snail-? I'm sick and tired of legislation that assumes as soon as you do something on the internet that it needs more strict rules than it did in it's older low-tech form. Why discriminate against e-mail? If this rule doesn't exist for paper mail, it shouldn't exist for e-mail. Conversely, if it exists for paper mail already, then it should already be illegal for e-mail without needed new legislation.

  • Here's the link at the ninemsn web site:
    New law won't punish forwarding e-mails [ninemsn.com.au] (http://news.ninemsn.com.au/sci_tech/story_9424.as p)

  • I agree. If everyone breaks the law, they can't properly enforce them.

    Either they select a few people to make examples of and fine them into oblivion, or they try to attack everyone. Either way it shows people that the law is stupid and doesn't follow the will of the people.

    And that, really, is what the law is supposed to do. If nobody believed you could own blue things, a law granting property rights to blue things wouldn't fit with the will of the people. If nobody wants a law, it shouldn't be.

    In a less esoteric example, implied right to copy... If everyone agrees that a message someone sent to you is okay to distribute, then it should be.

    I don't know any rational person (ie, not just mouthing the copyright-is-god party line) who thinks you shouldn't be able to forward email. It's just insane.

    There is a line somewhere, if an author emails you a book to proofread, that is a message, but shouldn't be free to copy. But that's where the courts should step in and interpret.

    Otherwise you could get a contract emailed to you that you weren't allowed to print out and show to your lawyer, or a threat you'd be prosecuted if you showed to the police.
  • Re: Spam... fined for demonstrating a scam.

    Especially since your copying would cause financial damage.

    In the USA the criminal and civil courts are quite seperated. To use O.J. as an example... he wasn't convicted of the crime, but he was liable for damages. But, they had to prove he did it to fine him, but they couldn't use that to convict him, etc... (IMHO if they can't convict you, they shouldn't be able to use less evidence to hit you in civil court.)

    So you could be educating people of a scam which frees you from liable/slander (if it's true), but that's unconnected to your copyright violation in using their materials as an example. So they shut you down by claiming that your use isn't covered under fair-use and that every person you copied it to is a lost sale, thus a huge ammount of damages. Effectively supressing speech they don't like.

    Even worse, they encrypt the message (deliver it on a DVD, etc) and because you'd distribute a snippet (sampled into a non DVD form) they'd hit you under the DMCA as well.

    It's just a further step in limiting free speech. They technically allow it but limit your ability to supply context (copyright violation on the quotes and/or DMCA violation) and on your access to the media.

    Will the next generation of DVD players even play unencrypted media? Or will they, "for our protection" require all media to be encrypted? Of course, using DeCSS v2, a patented algorithm with a copyrighted master key, will require a huge payout (trivial to someone pressing a multi-million dollar movie, exorbitant to an individual.) which would effectively forbid anyone except the controlling corporations from using the media.
  • >Australia starts acting like China and reading their citizen's emails, checking for 'inappropriate material'?

    Illegal to do in Australia without a warrant. However, Echelon avoids that problem for them, doesn't it? So the USA is already acting "like China" over most of the western world.

    >Australia starts packet sniffing?

    They don't need to. See Echelon...

    >Australia requires all traffic to go through a central server farm, so they can control everything going in and coming out?

    They don't need too. We have stuff-all points of access into the country (by land/sea line). They just get the ISPs to do it.

    >Australia filters web sites?

    Do the letters RBL mean anything to you? Wasn't an Aussie invention (at least I don't think so).

    So, all the things you complain about are already in the USA. When you leaving? And where for? Mars?

    I'd like to point out that Australia had 80,000+ networked computers when Arpanet only had about 4000. Why don't you ask someone where most of the Decnet work was carried out?

    I can't help it if you come from a technologicaly backwards country...

  • Do we really think that the Austrailian government is out to protects my copyright when I forward gossip to my sister? Or do we think they are trying to cut down on chain letters and spam?
  • The weird thing is that this probably also applies in North America, as well. Many years ago (late '80s), I had someone send me an email chiding me for someting I'd said on the net. I forwarded his emil with my public apology, and he blew up at me for forwarding his email in it's entirety.

    He pointed out to me that it was a technical breach of his copyright. After thinking about it for a bit, I concluded that he's correct. We all have copywright on anything that we produce, and any copying of it without permission is a technical breach.

    The practice on the 'net is in technical breach of the law since the beginning of internet time, but very few have noticed that the emperor has no clothes. Even fewer have bothered to say anything about it (being naked, themselves). To finish off the analogy: What happened here, is that it's a cabinet minister saying that the emperor has no clothes, and all a sudden people are waking up to their own nakedness (and shooting the messenger).

    In a lot of ways, this is just a result of the unexpected merging of the digital age, and old law. Given how wide the breach is, however, it may be possible that (in the US, at least), the practice may be able to be subsumed into the "fair use" doctrine (i.e. Everybody, so far, has considered it fair use, so who is the Supreme Court to change everybody's mind?)

  • Why must the courts and legislatures of our world continue to think of computers as things foreign to traditional law? Why must they continue to make computer laws and decisions that would be considered unreasonable when applied to the real world? Computers are just another tool. With the printing press, there wasn't as much legal change. The monarchies and aristocracies of Europe feared it, but they could always have their troops smash a printing press. Computers and internets make the oligarchies and plutocracies of today shudder, though, because they can't do that. They have little control. They want control so they continue to pass insane laws.

    They will not succeed.
  • Sending anything that one claims as "copyrighted" to people one doesn't know and not providing a valid return address would be sufficient grounds to argue that copyright does not apply. The recipient is denied an opportunity to return the e-mail to the sender.

    If a spammer decided to try the copyright defense, it can easily be demonstrated under Australian law that they accessed someone else's computer without authorisation, which is an offence under the Crimes Act.

  • The joke is that it's technically accurate. You forward the email (even spam!) and you're making a copy in violation of copyright. If the spammer ever finds out, (s)he can nail your ass to the wall. QED.
  • To quote the late newspaper/yellow-journalism mogul, William Randolph Hearst:

    Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one.

    Well, now, it's suddenly possible for everyone to publish to a worldwide audience. This scares the hell out of politicans and Big Media alike.

    What little hope for the future that I had is fading fast. :(


  • by dr_labrat ( 15478 ) <(spooner) (at) (gmail.com)> on Sunday March 04, 2001 @09:58AM (#386096) Homepage
    Actually I think the Aussie government wants to turn the net into Teletext.
  • by tbo ( 35008 ) on Sunday March 04, 2001 @10:03AM (#386098) Journal
    The ruling says that it's illegal to forward email because you're reproducing it without the author's express written permission.

    What about SMTP relay? Each SMTP server along the way reproduces a copy of your email. Since you don't always know which SMTP servers it's going through, how can you give them express permission? You can't. Thus, email is illegal in Australia.

    The obvious answer to this is that, when you send email, permission to copy it is implicitly given.
  • Welcome to the 2001 digital olympics!

    Here, nations compete head-to-head to impose the most ridiculous pro-censorship/corporate laws on their citizens, without causing a revolt!

    And oh! Looks like Australia takes the lead! Yep - the fans are eagerly awaiting the US's response. :)

    All men are great
    before declaring war

  • And in related news, showing (paper) birthday cards to your friends and family after you recieve them is ruled an offense, as well as telling anyone about an email you recieved, or reading your email in a public place, or... or....

    Damn right.


    This message is for the named person's use only. It may contain confidential, proprietary or legally privileged information. No confidentiality or privilege is waived or lost by any mistransmission. If you receive this message in error, please immediately delete it and all copies of it from your system, destroy any hard copies of it and notify the sender. You must not, directly or indirectly, use, disclose, distribute, print, or copy any part of this message if you are not the intended recipient. [Huge MultiNational Company] and each of its subsidiaries each reserve the right to monitor all e-mail communications through its networks. Any views expressed in this message are those of the individual sender, except where the message states otherwise and the sender is authorised to state them to be the views of any such entity. Unless otherwise stated, any pricing information given in this message is indicative only, is subject to change and does not constitute an offer to deal at any price quoted. Any reference to the terms of executed transactions should be treated as preliminary only and subject to our formal written confirmation.


  • Damnit this is intolerable! How dare the Australian government try to outdo our RIAA and MPAA as to who is more braindead! We suggest we all lobby Congress and suggest they add a $1 tax to each CD-R disc sold in the USA to try to jump back ahead.
  • Let's not forget that Australia is just a penal colony. Why should prisoners have the same rights as a free man? They were rightly disarmed a few year ago, and now their lines of communication are being cut to make them more isolated and easier to control. Nothing but good management on the Prime Warden's part.

    I say that the things a man does to be sent to Botany Bay relieve society of any duty to respect his freedom.

    Sure, you may say that a significant percentage of prisoners are merely descendants of criminals, but as anyone who's paid attention to his lessons on eugenics in high-school science class knows that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. And as for those odd souls who removed themselves to that place voluntarily, it only shows their preference for associating with criminal defectives; the clearest sign of actually being one.

    You don't pry into whether our local wardens prefer thumbscrews or the lash, so why bother yourself about how Australians can talk to each other?
  • Aye, bring on Natasha. Not only is she smart but she's sexy too!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Constable Microsoft isn't the enemy force here. Even Gates knows this is wrong. How can they conduct business when all the people can do is sit and stare at government web sites? No email, no "unclean" sites, no web radio, no TV, no music. None of it. Where's the market?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Please note that under the Berne Convention, an international agreement to which almost all nations (including the United States) are signatory, all written works are under copyright automatically, even when no explicit copyright is mentioned.
  • I'd actually like to take issue with your sig, not your message itself:

    We don't need no stinkin' sigs.

    Yea, sure, Australia's IP laws are getting loonier every month it seems. But insofar as this law threatens our personal freedom as citizens of the 'net, why not just twiddle your sig a bit as a hack and be done with it:

    "The original author hereby disclaims any and all authorship rights to, and releases into the public domain any copy of this message reaching a computer in the Commonwealth of Australia, for the purposes of the Digital Agenda Act and/or any other legislation enacted therein.

  • It is -- under their anal (excuse the pun) pornography laws...
  • Now, any 'communication' constitutes an original work for the purposes of copyright protection. Get over it.

    I agree, discerning a 'communication' from an 'original, copywritten work' is rather difficult.
  • You aren't banned from forwarding mail; but if you knowingly forward something that the author didn't want forwarded, then you could be sued for copyright infringement

    Read that again and I think you'll see the problem. Determining whether the author would want something forwarded would ostensibly involve either explicit consent on each email, or some sort of mind reading. The problem here is not the few lawsuits that will spring up, but simply the massive legal exposure for corporations and individuals which has been instantaneously created by this law. It's a case of law not imitating life. I would hate to see the contortions corporations are going to go through regarding their employees' email over the next few months (assuming somebody doesn't wake up and vaporize this thing.)

    Now, a good example of law meeting reality would have been to declare some sort of explicit granting of rights whenever you send out an email. Perhaps forwarders could be required to leave the original sender's name in the message body. Any law that miraculously turns a common, accepted activity into a crime is going to cause a lot of trouble.

  • Hmm.. so how long before the Australian version of Outlook (required, of course, for government compliance) includes a "no-forward" or "no-copy" checkbox for email messages, and refuses to forward/save emails marked with it?

    All men are great
    before declaring war

  • I have just added this to my signature for all outgoing business mail:

    "Permission is granted under the Copyright Act 1968 (as amended to 4 March 2001) to forward this messages to other recipients within your company. This waiver is required because forwarding email without the owner's written permission is now illegal under the Copyright Act."

    This avoids any problems if I accidentally leave off a vital recipient (which happens all the time), alerts other companies to the problem, and acts as a mild protest.

  • by DeadMeat (TM) ( 233768 ) on Sunday March 04, 2001 @10:59AM (#386136) Homepage
    Not quite. The article states quite clearly that the reason why forwarding E-mail without permission is illegal is that it violates copyright laws. (In some countries, apparently including Australia, all original works are considered copyrighted, whether or not it is stated in the work. So you own the copywrite to all E-mail you write, since it is your original work.) By sending E-mail you are giving implicit consent for the SMTP servers to duplicate your message. (Now having somebody program the SMTP server and save logs of all the E-mail passing through it *would* be illegal, but I don't think anybody's going to be upset about that.) Everybody is blowing this out of proportion. It's no different than copyright laws before, it's just been clearly extended to E-mail. You aren't banned from forwarding mail; but if you knowingly forward something that the author didn't want forwarded, then you could be sued for copyright infringement, just if you Xeroxed a copyrighted work and snailmailed it. You just need to apply some common sense when forwarding things (consider whether or not the author would have wanted them forwarded) which is a good practice anyway, copyright laws or no.
  • by Dr. Awktagon ( 233360 ) on Sunday March 04, 2001 @11:02AM (#386137) Homepage

    Those people who write emails have worked HARD and they deserve to be compensated for their efforts!

    If you forward those emails you are a THIEF and a CRIMINAL, no different than if you went into a Border's and raped the cashier. How would you like if some gave away all your work for free? Communist!

    It's about time the government cracked down on those freeloaders. If you think forwarding emails should be free, well let's see you write your own emails and give them away! If every one forwarded emails, no one would write new emails because there'd be no incentive! How would you like that! Commie!

    Err, wait a minute, what was the discussion about again?

  • by saagar734 ( 224638 ) on Sunday March 04, 2001 @09:14AM (#386142)
    And what happens to all the viruses?
  • You're an arrogant, ignorant fool. You should take a good look in the mirror some time. Do you really think the rest of the world is full of universal admiration for the US? Yes, I have met smart Americans, but I've also come across appalling pig-headed ignorance Have you ever even been to Australia? There are a lot of smart Aussies still in Australia. Sure, Australia, like other small countries, has a problem with brain drain. That has more to do with things like taxes and salaries than anything else. If you read discussions on Australian news sites, you'll find that many Australians disagree with such things as the new net censorship laws. We live in a democracy and we'll have our opportunity to change these things at the next election, if not before.
  • You crazy chip-on-your-shoulder Australians! I was wondering how you were going to spin this. "The Aussie government isn't really doing something bad, we're actually following the rules more closely than you Americans. We're still better than you! Really, we are!"

    Heh, good one.

"So why don't you make like a tree, and get outta here." -- Biff in "Back to the Future"