Australian Censorship Minister advocates illegal taping of Internet Accounts

Controversial Australian Minister for Censorship Stephen Conroy is back in the news after mocking a company for not breaking the law.

Conroy, speaking at the CommsDay Summit in Sydney Tuesday, mocked ISP iiNet over its defense in court that it didn’t know what its users were downloading. As we’ve reported previously, iiNet is being sued by big media over alleged illegal downloading by its customers.


In what was at times a heated morning at the CommsDay Summit in Sydney, Conroy told an overflowing room that the idea that iiNet “have no idea if any customers are illegally downloading music” on their network is a “stunning defence”.

“The capacity to be able to ignore what your customers are doing on your network is being fought out in the Courts but I thought the defence of ‘we have no idea what anyone is downloading over our network’ was a classic,” Conroy said.

There’s one rather problem with Conroy’s mockery: it’s illegal to spy on users in Australia without a court order under the Telecommunications (Interception) Act 1979. If iiNet had been spying on what its users were downloading, they would be breaking Australian law.

Stilgherrian rightly points out that even if they were illegally spying on customers, how could iiNet tell whether a particular data stream is an “illegal” copy or not? “A music file looks just the same whether it’s being used legally under the terms of its license or under fair dealing, or not. Does Senator Conroy imagine illegally-made copies are stamped “pirate” or something?”