Australians Can Spam Too

It’s official, the new anti-spam legislation in Australia comes into effect on 11 April 2004.

Businesses which persist in sending spam will face penalties of up to $1.1 million for a single day of infringements.

The Act prohibits sending unsolicited commercial electronic messages that have an Australian link. This means commercial spam, sent by mobile phone or email, cannot originate from Australia and is not allowed to be sent to Australian addresses, no matter the point of origin.

The Power of Three

Communications Minister ‘Rowdy’ Williams (rowdy because he’s so quiet), has apparently just discovered the government a few years ago devolved the authority to issue a fourth TV network licence to the Australian Broadcasting Authority – that’s the statutory body charged with regulating and managing broadcast licences. The new licence would come available after 2006.

Except Rowdy doesn’t trust them – they might actually issue the licence, which of course would make all sorts of very rich and powerful people (eg Kerry and Kerry) upset.

And the Australian says “Seven, Nine and Ten are expected to argue their obligations to broadcast Australian drama and children’s TV programs should be reduced if they have new competition. “

They don’t miss a beat – a statement like that achieves two objectives for the channels – continue to campaign to reduce their expenditure on (expensive) local content and substitute cheap American imports; and scare the government that they might do such a thing, and thus give the government grounds to yet again avoid shaking up the cosy relationships with the media magnates.

In the meantime the community loses out – we continue to have a reduced choice; competition is stiffled; and the existing main players pursue their ‘cheap programming/high revenue’ business model.

What We’re About

I like this from CED Magazine, it sums up the attitude I think we have with the subscription publications I’m involved with:

“the interactive future needs three important legs: compelling content that the consumer is excited about; an efficient marketing and distribution system to make consumers aware of their options; and an underlying platform that delivers on the promise. And all of these need to come together at a price point that rewards the participants for their contributions, and that the consumer is willing to pay.”

One Step Forwards, Two Steps Back

Well I’m not sure the tide is turning, but the music industry has had a couple of losses. In the USA a court has refused the industry the right to force ISPs to cough up the names of customers; and a Dutch court has ruled that Kazaa can’t be held liable for copyright infringements of the service’s peer-to-peer music swapping customers.

Big Time Spammers To Be Canned

The State of New York has launched action against three companies, including one run by Scott Richter, a man they say is the third most prolific spammer in the world. Microsoft has also joined the fray, saying it will also launch actions, because the spammers sent thousands of messages to Hotmail. The spams were relayed via unsecured servers overseas. The New York attorney general reckons his goal is to make sure the three companies are put out of business.

As might be expected the three companies are all saying it wasn’t them. At least one already seems out of business, with one of its owners filing for bankcruptcy protection.

Australian Government Wins Stupid Award

It’s a few months old, but I only just stumbled across the story. The Australian Government won an award from Privacy International in April 2003 – funnily enough the Government decided not to publicise the award. The competition was to find the world’s most stupid security measure. The Australian Government won:

“Most Egregiously Stupid Award

Winner – The Australian Government for a litany of pointless, irritating and self-serving security measures”

It’s for the ‘Be Alert, Not Alarmed’ media campaign, with the ubiquitous fridge magnet mailed to every household in the nation, which all Australians will remember with fond hilarity.

Stop the Ignorant Legal and Bean-counting Professionals

Tim Berners-Lee, the man credited with inventing the web as we know it, probably never saw this coming. “Clueless lawyers and commercial greed could soon prevent deep linking between websites”. If some get their way, a great many sites, including some I’m involved with, could be out of business. Basically, the notion is that deep linking – eg linking to a page on another web site other than the home page, could become untenable, due to cost and legal reasons.

The Guardian article makes the interesting observation that hip, cool and cutting edge company Apple behind the scenes forbids deep linking to content on its site.

There has been a court case in the UK where a deep linker lost.

“Clearly, we are seeing a process of creep where legal companies and other advisory bodies are creating a climate where linking in the internet will eventually become a licensed activity. The first victims, as ever, will not be companies but individuals. “

But, as the article says, all is not lost. National Public Radio in the USA tried it on – it started saying that deep linkers needed permission. And they were innundated with thousands of link requests, and eventually scrapped the policy. Perhaps more examples like this, where the Net constituency takes positive action to illustrate to the lawyers and accountants the error of their restrictive practices, attitudes can be changed.

The whole point of the web is links. I don’t think a few ignorant legal and bean-counting professionals should get in the way.

Here We Go Again – With a Twist

The Canadian Recording Industry Association has announced it’s going to start suing Canadian users of file-sharing networks.

But there’s an interesting twist. Canada has a ‘copyright levy’ – “a fee paid in Canada whenever you buy a blank recordable compact disc, or a music player that has internal memory”.

The Globe and Mail says: “The wording of the Copyright Act and several Copyright Board rulings suggest that Canadians are legally allowed to download music for their own use, because of the copyright levy.”

But CRIA says it’s going to target, wait for it, uploading of copyrighted material – eg they’re going to try and argue that uploading is illegal, when downloading might be legal! Would seem you can’t have one without the other of course.

When A Spam Isn’t A Spam

George Bush has signed into the law the new US Can-Spam Law. But some experts are pretty skeptical:

“Estimates are that 90 per cent of all spam comes from about 200 groups around the world. They operate outside the jurisdiction of the United States. Even more important, they are able to hide their identity. They make it impossible for authorities to trace them, so laws that threaten penalties are absolutely meaningless.”

Have to agree with them, basically a spam isn’t a spam if it has an opt-out option at the bottom. Which many, of course, do already. Although it isn’t in reality opt-out, rather opt-in-for-lots-more, because it just tells the spammer that your address is alive.