Is Conroy really this ignorant of his own portfolio?

If this report about Senator Stephen Conroy’s comments this morning is right, then he’s either completely out of touch with what actually happens in an ISP, or thoroughly disingenuous.

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.

Is Senator Conroy aware that it’s completely unethical — if not downright illegal — to monitor or otherwise intercept the contents of someone else’s communications?

As a “common carrier”, iiNet or any other ISP does not and indeed can not monitor the content of communications flowing through their network any more than Telstra or another telco can listen in to our telephone conversations, or Australia Post can open our mail and read it. At least not without a warrant or other due legal process.

Anyway, how can an ISP 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?

It looks like the report is true, because ZDNet just posted their version.

If Conroy is still saying such daft stuff even after last week’s episode of Q&A, then tonight’s edition of Insight should be a laugh too.

17 Replies to “Is Conroy really this ignorant of his own portfolio?”

  1. Not only is it illegal under the TPA (Telecommunications Interception Act) for ISPs to intercept, it is also illegal for other unauthorised organisation to intercept — which means anyone without a Federal court warrant. Which means DtecNet and vicariously the Applicants in the Roadshow v iiNet court case could have also committed an illegal act in allegedly intercepting communications within the iiNet network. Whether it was done within Australia or Overseas is not relevant to the Act.

    Also having stuck his nose into the above civil court case, Conroy has made the Federal Government give a legal opinion on one of the defences that iiNet is using. I think Mr Herbert Greer (solicitor) will have a lot to say about this at the next sitting.

  2. You mean that every ISP in Australia DOESN’T HAVE hundreds of staff sitting there making sure we’re not doing anything we shouldn’t!? ZOMG! Maybe Senator Conroy needs to go work for the government in China, he might be more at home there. More and more evidence comes to light to show that he really does have no idea about technology and that his governments policies and what they are actually trying to achieve is all over the place.

    On a serious note, as lead tech for the company I work for we cannot and do not monitor what our staff do on the Internet. While this is unusual for a corporate environment our managing director doesn’t believe in the ‘big brother’ approach, rather that our users can be responsible enough to use the company bandwidth in an appropriate manner

  3. Unfortunately as Comms minister, Conroy now falls under the ‘a little bit of knowedge is worse than no knowledge at all’ banner.

    Kind of like a PHB.

  4. “Kind of like a PHB” Life imitates Art — Conroy is living the Dilbert cartoon.

  5. “Please wait. Your download has been queued and is awaiting checks by our legal department. Estimated time to download = 4 weeks, 3 days, 13 hours and 15 minutes. Linux ISOs are not exempt from checking and will be referred to our software patent department for download approval.”

    I’d really like a new Minister please Mr Rudd.

  6. Hoping somebody in your vast network of fans will make an illegal recording of tonight’s SBS show and share it with those of us unable to sit in front of a telly or make our own recordings tonight.

    I’ll be busy researching a blog post discussing the virtues of our ABC’s iView service (which is how I watched most of last weeks Q&A which I discovered via Twitter) vs the evil ineptitude of ABC Online Store — downloads section.

    Keep up the good work.

    p.s. love the ‘magic filter’ riff stuck in my head for all time!

  7. Aren’t the comments from Conroy about iiNet’s ongoing legal case prejudicial, he is the fuckin’ minister… How could it possibly be appropriate to make comment about the defence strategy?

    Conroy is from another planet, where they wear arses as hats!

  8. Is Conroy really this ignorant of his own portfolio?
    simple answer yes.
    Rudd should get rid of the clown if he wants to get voted in again, unless this is really his agenda.

  9. @mtats and @John C: I guess I should link to the Pointy-Haired Boss (PHB), for the folks who don’t read Dilbert.

    @mike seyfang: SBS TV’s Insight is repeated and is also available as video on demand from the episode’s web page.

    @CW: As this is a civil case rather than a criminal one, I’m not sure what rules of prejudice apply. I’ll ask a lawyer. Stand by.

    @LT: Whatever Senator Conroy’s personal views in this, mandatory Internet filtering is Labor Party policy. If Senator Conroy has failed to implement it without causing massive controversy, then that’s moderately full of FAIL.

  10. I will be voting liberal at the next election labor is out of touch with the common person they are ment to represent. (life long labor voter)

  11. Anyway, how can an ISP 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.

    I assume that unlicensed copies have the evil bit set to 1.

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