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Film studios will use metadata to chase pirates, Ludlam warns

While the AFP says it's not interested in using metadata to investigate piracy, Greens Senator Scott Ludlam says data retention could allow rights holders to prosecute individual Internet users.

Image by Pascal, CC BY 2.0

Greens Senator Scott Ludlam has warned that mandatory data retention legislation could lead to rights holders pursuing pirates out of court, effectively "circumventing" the high court decision in the Village Roadshow case against iiNet.

Speaking today after a new Data Retention bill was introduced to Parliament yesterday, Senator Ludlam said it was now clear that the legislation was not just being introduced for national security reasons, but that there were a lot of other "creepy agendas" behind what he called "open season warrantless metadata harvesting".

In particular, he pointed out that ISPs would need to retain "upload and/or download volumes", according to the explanatory memorandum for the legislation, and argued that rights holders could use this information to chase pirates.

"I think yesterday the cat finally got let out of the bag", he said of AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin's early admission that policing piracy was on the table.

"The very fact that one of the data sets that are sought to be retained are data volumes...there's no doubt at all that the big US content providers have been leaning on this rather weak and compliant government to be able to say, 'Who is hitting this particular website and how much traffic was there between you and it?' so they can either prosecute you or prosecute the service provider.

"When the AFP commissioner was asked this direct question at the press conference yesterday, he said yes. And then Mr Turnbull elbowed him off stage and tried to obfuscate and confuse the message. It's out of the bag and it's really confirmed what many people have thought all along."

Senator Ludlam said Australia suffered from "content choke points" and a content monopoly "held in part by Foxtel", adding that the government should provide cheap, convenient and lawful access to content in order to strike out piracy. However, under the proposed data retention scheme, he said it was individual Australians that had the most to lose.

"I think it's fairly clear that what rights holders are going to try and do, quite apart from releasing the choke hold that a tiny handful of companies have on content distribution in this country, is to try and effectively circumvent what the high court said in the iiNet case and to be able to come after individual users and start stripping the safe harbour provisions that exist around ISPs.

"It's a fairly clear agenda and I think that's where we can set aside the myth that this is all about national security. There are obviously a lot of other rather creepy agendas being advanced behind that cover."