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Australian PM Has Parody Site Shut Down 289

Posted by Zonk
from the ah-to-breath-the-free-air-of-australia dept.
babbling writes "The Australian Government has shut down a parody website that mocked Australian Prime Minister John Howard. The website featured a satirical speech that 'apologised' for the Iraq war. The site was down for two days before a phone call from Melbourne IT advised the owner that it had been shut down 'on the advice from the Australian Government'. A mirrored PDF copy of the "apology speech" is available."
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Australian PM Has Parody Site Shut Down

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  • by AEton (654737) on Friday March 17, 2006 @10:55AM (#14941545)
    MelbourneIT representative: "To us it looks like a phishing site."

    Not bloody likely.
    • by hey! (33014) on Friday March 17, 2006 @10:59AM (#14941579) Homepage Journal
      The answer is if you elect politicians who think you need to be protected from your own stupidity, those politicians may be onto something.
      • Mind you, politicians tend to be from the lower end of the IQ pool... of course it makes it easier for them to spot stupidity, being so intimately familiar with it themsevles.

        • by iminplaya (723125) <iminplaya.gmail@com> on Friday March 17, 2006 @11:53AM (#14941975) Journal
          When you're mired in it, it's pretty hard to see what you're mired in. Anyway, the politicians are living pretty well. Stupid are the people who elect them. Ignorant really. I don't think they would get elected if the voters actually made an effort to find out the truth about the people they're voting for. If not ignorant, then apathetic, if not that, then despicable, because they actually want censorship of "undesirables".
        • Saying that politicians are stupid is simply a knee-jerk reaction to George W. Bush. I heard Bill Clinton speak recently and I would say that he is one of the most eloquent, intelligent men around.
    • by digster (924935)
      Unfortunately for us aussies, we have a westminster system of gov that was copied badly Whilst there are implied freedoms of speech etc in the australian constitution they arent actually written in there which means our government can pretty much do what the hell it likes. And for those saying vote jack boot johnny out, i agree, but that just means the other idiots get in. Lets face it if voting changed anything theyd make it illegal.
      • Lets face it if voting changed anything theyd make it illegal.

        I love that. You just found my sig...

  • by Dynamoo (527749) * on Friday March 17, 2006 @10:56AM (#14941554) Homepage
    This is a Bad Thing, and it's quite possibly unlawful. In most countries, parody sites are protected under the "fair use" clause in copyright laws. If I wanted to create a humorous site parodying the UK government (where I live), I'd have certain protection by law to copy the "look and feel" of the other site. This is true of most other countries.

    For example, some time ago there was a similar issue (reported here [theregister.co.uk]) about the UK Gov's "Preparing for Emergencies" site (the real one is here [preparingf...ies.gov.uk], the parody one here [preparingf...cies.co.uk]). There was some fuss about it at the time, but basically the UK Gov cocked up by not registering the .co.uk domain along with the .gov.uk, and there was no case to answer in law, because of the "fair use" clause.

    Similarly, whitehouse.org [whitehouse.org] and whitehouse.gov [whitehouse.gov] coexist. Indeed, there are probably hundreds of parody sites that work in a similar way.

    Now, when I read the story, the quote from Bruce Tonkin at Melbourne IT set off my BS alarm. His claim that Melbourne IT reacts quickly to issues like this is simply not true. If you're involved in the anti-spam or anti-scam business, you'll know that Melbourne IT are one of the domain registrars of choice for phishers and spammers. In fact, Melbourne IT's procedures are so slack that they infamously transferred the panix.com domain [theregister.co.uk] to a third party without authorisation last year. The site was offline for several days because Melbourne IT don't work weekends. You'll see that Bruce Tonkin offered another bullshit excuse there too.

    So, don't just blame the "Australian government" for this, as it's unclear who exactly intervened. A large part of the blame for this has to fall on Melbourne IT and their pisspoor procedures.. I bet they'd believe ANYBODY who rang up and claimed to be from the government. Shucks, perhaps I should give 'em a call and pretend to be John Howard.. although my English accent might give me away, though probably not.

    • by tpgp (48001) on Friday March 17, 2006 @11:03AM (#14941595) Homepage
      In fact, Melbourne IT's procedures are so slack that they infamously transferred the panix.com domain to a third party without authorisation last year.

      Not just that. They've also been accused of facilitating [blogspot.com] 419 fraud.

      So, don't just blame the "Australian government" for this, as it's unclear who exactly intervened.

      Better: Blame the "Australian government" for this, along with Melbourne IT. John Howard has lied to the Australian Public again and again.

      He's currently under investigation for his role in collusion with [theage.com.au] Saddam's regime under sections.
    • by mpe (36238) on Friday March 17, 2006 @11:03AM (#14941596)
      This is a Bad Thing, and it's quite possibly unlawful.

      It's also rather counter productive since it gets a lot of people looking at whatever all this fuss is about.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 17, 2006 @11:22AM (#14941722)
      So, don't just blame the "Australian government" for this, as it's unclear who exactly intervened.

      The current Australian government's reputation doesn't help them though...

      Particularly they have a very poor reputation as far as "supporting civil liverties on principle" is concerned. It is one of the few governments that is entirely happy for the US to keep its citizens who are terror suspects in Guantanamo Bay (on the grounds that that way Australia doesn't have to deal with them). Their attitude towards assylum seekers is notorious worldwide. And the opposition aren't actually much better - they have just successfully campaigned to remove accountability for controversial drug approvals from the Health Minister [who might have to justify himself to the Australian people] and pass it to an entirely unaccountable "panel of experts". I wonder how long before John Howard realises that so long as you pass all the unpopular decisions to an unaccountable "panel of experts" then no voter can ever reasonably complain about anything you do!
      • 'they have just successfully campaigned to remove accountability for controversial drug approvals from the Health Minister [who might have to justify himself to the Australian people] and pass it to an entirely unaccountable "panel of experts"'


        This is not true and you know it. Didn't your mother tell you not to tell lies? The health minister had a right wing Christian agenda. That's why many people in his own party voted against him.
      • by drsmithy (35869) <drsmithyNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday March 17, 2006 @10:14PM (#14946324)
        And the opposition aren't actually much better - they have just successfully campaigned to remove accountability for controversial drug approvals from the Health Minister [who might have to justify himself to the Australian people] and pass it to an entirely unaccountable "panel of experts". I wonder how long before John Howard realises that so long as you pass all the unpopular decisions to an unaccountable "panel of experts" then no voter can ever reasonably complain about anything you do!

        For non Australians, what *actually* happened, was that the Health Minister had veto power over a *single* drug - the abortion pill RU486 - and that veto power has been removed. The only reason the Health Minister even had such a veto was because several years earlier the Government had traded it for the support in Parliament of a Christian fundie independent MP, since at that time they needed it to have legislation passed.

        The situation has *nothing* to do with "accountability" and everything to do with anti-abortion agenda of the Christian Right. Parent post should be modded "-1, Blatant Misinformation".

        • One other thing that should be noted, for the benefit of non-Australians, is that to this date, precisely nobody has applied to have RU486 legalised in Australia, even during the term of the previous Health Minister, who was a practicing doctor. So say what you will about the anti-abortion agenda of the fundies (I certainly will, at length), but IMO the purported "veto power" was almost entirely moot.

    • by bogie (31020) on Friday March 17, 2006 @11:22AM (#14941727) Journal
      "This is a Bad Thing, and it's quite possibly unlawful. In most countries, parody sites are protected under the "fair use" clause in copyright laws"

      Exactly. Here in the awesome USofA such things are protected. You are free to openly disagree with the President and his policies with NO WORRY of retribution. In other countries doing things like that would get you fired from your job, put on the nofly list, or even worse they dig up dirt on you and your family in an attempt to embarass or discredit you if you try to tell the truth.
      • by Burz (138833) on Friday March 17, 2006 @12:17PM (#14942170) Journal
        Here in the awesome USofA such things are protected. You are free to openly disagree with the President and his policies with NO WORRY of retribution. In other countries doing things like that would get you fired from your job, put on the nofly list, or even worse they dig up dirt on you and your family in an attempt to embarass or discredit you if you try to tell the truth.

        Except that political retribution happens here anyway. After the Venezuelan govt made inexpensive fuel available to poor Americans, the VZ fuel company CITGO is being put under a microscope by Congress.

        Some Venezuelans who normally teach in the US have had their visas revoked, [democracynow.org] or their classes held-up. Government agents swaggering by your office saying "We have derrogatory information on you". "Blah Blah TERRORISM Blah Blah...", which is the new codeword for "We're not accountable to the Constitution".

        If US efforts to dispense aid met with investigations by politicians, or US teachers were prevented from teaching abroad, the foreign country would be labeled "totalitarian" (except if you are fascist like Saudi Arabia or Pakistan-- then you get to buy ad time on our airwaves for propaganda).
      • In other countries doing things like that would get you fired from your job,

        Sounds like an problem with the employer. I'm afraid we don't force employment here in the US like France does (unless you're a 'minority').

        put on the nofly list,

        Have you heard of Michael Moore, Barbra Streisand, or Alec Baldwin being put on a no-fly list? Do you know anyone personally? No? See, it turns out that it's just the usual sloppy work by bureaucrats who confused similar-sounding Arabic names. Joe Caucasian Liberal h

    • Apropos that Preparing for Emergencies parody, what is that red symbol in the top left-hand corner supposed to mean? Turn on, set wallpaper to hello.jpg, tune in?
    • There is no "fair use" in Australian copyright law. There's "fair dealing" but it doesn't cover parody.
    • Excellent summary, we have GWB's "deputy" running the show down here and Melb.IT ( I once owned shares ) seem unable to organise the proverbial "piss up in a brewery".

      In the Aussie vanacular, "I don't give a shit" about this incident. Not because I don't care about my right to poke parody in Johnny face. It's because the bulk of our laws are derived from British common law and AFAIK parody is still protected despite the various promises of "legal harmony" in the US/AU FTA.
    • I RTFA and to me it wasn't funny. Maybe if the tone was from the Director of Marketing for the Foster's Bewery, then THAT would be funny.

      Some constructive suggestions for the site:

      1. A "How To" page for using a turbin as a cooler for beer

      2. A "How To" page for showing when president Bush is lying, (his lips are moving...).

      3. A "How To" for watching sand as the wind blows.

      4. A "How To" for looking at dead civilizations in Iraq

      5. An aussie-english to aribic translation page?

      "hay mate, where can I get a
  • Fascism spreads (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    It's the way of the world, folks. Our corporate masters can't have you exposed to a different world view, now can they. And, of course the citizens who should be protecting the old "democratic" system are way too busy.

    • I fail to see how the "corporate masters" had anything to do with this one. To me it seems like the ones with the guns, the gov't, forced the hands of the company. But I guess it is easier to hate a company than hate the state everyone seems to live. can't live without the gov't!
    • It's the way of the world, folks. Our corporate masters can't have you exposed to a different world view, now can they. And, of course the citizens who should be protecting the old "democratic" system are way too busy.

      Luckily we have crazy people with tinfoil hats who are fresh out meds reminding us.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 17, 2006 @10:57AM (#14941569)
    looks like this was not Minitrue approved!
    And there I was thinking parodical works were protected
  • by HellYeahAutomaton (815542) on Friday March 17, 2006 @11:02AM (#14941594)

    Politicians are in the public eye, and should expect satire and public attention. No one forced them to be politicians. Danish cartoons causing bloodshed, and now this. Does the Australian government think its people so dumb that they can't distinguish parody from sincerity?

    What a miserable miserable world we live in.

    • Does the Australian government think its people so dumb that they can't distinguish parody from sincerity?

      Alternativly this disability is common amongst politicians.
    • by rjstanford (69735) on Friday March 17, 2006 @12:42PM (#14942407) Homepage Journal
      Go and read the PDF. Now assume that its been sent to you, as-is. Nothing whatsoever on that indicates in any way, shape, or form that it was a work of Satire, that those words did not come from John Howard. Its not as if it was posted on The Onion, or another similar site, that clearly indicates it is not official.

      Now look down at the bottom. There's a copyright link which, like a lot of other links on the site, actually leads to the official website's copyright page. By doing that, and by not having anything anywhere on the page that identifies the authors in any other way, they may well have actually assigned copyright (I'm not familiar with the intracies of Australian copyright law). In that case, as the copyright owners (if not the authods), they were completly within their rights to insist that the piece be removed.

      There's satire, and then there's impersonation. To me, for something to be protected even if satirical there would have to be some way, other than a personal evaluation of the content of the attributed text, for them to be able to tell that they're not looking at a "true" website. It can be evocative of the original, but should not be too easily mistaken for it. In the same way that, in the 'States, Saturday Night Live can use the presidential trappings for a "Press Conference" but if they were to broadcast a) without a laugh track, and b) using a body double instead of a "regular" actor, and c) react accordingly - they'd get in trouble too.
      • Nothing whatsoever on that indicates in any way, shape, or form that it was a work of Satire, that those words did not come from John Howard.

        I take it you don't know John Howard very well.... I was rolling in tears as soon as "he" starts admitting being wrong!

  • by ackthpt (218170) * on Friday March 17, 2006 @11:04AM (#14941606) Homepage Journal

    Politicians should grow some thicker skin in Oz. Hard to imagine a more thin skinned bunch, what next, censorship, oh, wait, that's exactly what it is.

    50 years ago, March 17th, 1956, Fred Allen, born May 31, 1894 in Cambridge MA to irish catholic parents, famed comedy writer and radio comedian, died of a heart attack while walking his dog.

    I'll toast him with a pint of Guinness. Thanks Fred, for all the laughs.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 17, 2006 @11:05AM (#14941609)
    Of course, I'm not Australian, and I may not be catching their humor.

    However, the PDF document looks "offical" enough to possibly be the "real thing".

    If this is satire, it's not translating well. It's no surprise the government wanted it taken down.
  • Backfire! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by redelm (54142) on Friday March 17, 2006 @11:05AM (#14941611) Homepage
    As usual, attempts to ban something mostly just serve as publicity.


    It would have been better to request that the material clearly be labelled "parody" or "fiction", because some wankers might be confused and think Howie is a nice guy.

  • by soft_guy (534437) on Friday March 17, 2006 @11:07AM (#14941622)
    I'm glad to see that Australia now has the same level of freedoms as Iran, North Korea, and China.

    I love the Austrailian people and I hope that the US will liberate them from their repressive government sometime soon.
    • by Zzesers92 (819281)
      Wow, the Australia government does something facists and you actually managed to make an anti-American dig as a result! I'm impressed.

      America has problems, yes, but when another country demonstrates their similar inperfections to the world, can't we hold them accountable without trashing the US in the same breath?

      How about just a "Boo Australia" in this case?

      • I'd rather (Score:4, Insightful)

        by tkrotchko (124118) * on Friday March 17, 2006 @11:47AM (#14941933) Homepage
        In the U.S. we're supposed to be a beacon of freedom and tolerance. When we don't meet these ideals, they should be pointed out. In fact, people are doing us a favor for pointing out our flaws because it's possible we don't see them ourselves.

        Let me use an analogy... If I have some food on the corner of mouth after I eat, I hope my friends will tell me about it, and not just ignore it because some guy down the hall spilled his entire meal on his tie.

        People from around the world point out our flaws because we're disappointing them. After we did so much to liberate the world from tyranny in the 20th century, they want us to continue in the 21st. And if we don't meet that benchmark, then they want to tell us to get better.
      • America has problems, yes, but when another country demonstrates their similar inperfections to the world, can't we hold them accountable without trashing the US in the same breath?

        Well they're part of the same WAR coalition, so I don't see why not. The parody in question is about Iraq, you know.

  • ... that it isn't Little Johnny Howard.

    It has long been my habit to keep aquainted with opinions opposed to my own, and to canvas a wide range of views.

    That line really made me laugh.
  • by digitaldc (879047) * on Friday March 17, 2006 @11:08AM (#14941634)
    He said that after two days of silence, a customer service representative from Melbourne IT today informed him by telephone that the site had "been closed on the advice from the Australian Government"

    People know censorship when they see it.
    People do not like being censored.
    I suggest if you are an Aussie and this bothers you, vote John Howard and his friends out of office.
  • by shabushabu (961717)
    Are we really talking about Australia here? Or am I suffering from this rare disorder that causes me to misread "China" as "Australia"
  • by Kohath (38547) on Friday March 17, 2006 @11:10AM (#14941649)
    Don't they have free speech in Austrailia?

    This wouldn't happen in the USA because we have free speech. Except if a lesbian is offended, then it's sexual harrassment. Or on campuses with a speech code. Or it you want to advertise cigarettes. Or alcohol. Or if you want to run political ads, then it might violate campaign finance reform, even if it's exactly like this John Howard web site.

    So this wouldn't happen in the USA in the early 80s. We sort-of had free speech back then.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Except if a lesbian is offended, then it's sexual harrassment.


      Yeah, lesbians are stopping free speech... nice one.
    • I wish I had mod points, I would mod you up.

      He's right. Free Speech in America is trumped by Political Correctness. It makes me sick to see how far we have fallen as a nation, and even sicker to see other countries following our lead. (on this issue, anyway.)
    • Except if a lesbian is offended, then it's sexual harrassment. Or on campuses with a speech code.

      Can you tell the difference between criticisizing an individual, and generalizing about a minority? No?? I could tell...

      • Can you tell the difference between criticisizing an individual, and generalizing about a minority? No?? I could tell...

        Sure. Is there some doubt about this being a generalization? Even an over-generalization? I don't think there is.

        You still have to watch what you say when there are lesbians around. If they happen to take offense to what you say, then you may be headed for court (or worse). That's not free speech.
    • Except if a lesbian is offended, then it's sexual harrassment.

      I believe the first ammendment prevents the government from abridging free speech, not lesbians nor campuses.

      • I believe the first ammendment prevents the government from abridging free speech, not lesbians nor campuses.

        And what about when she sues you for sexual harrassment (a government law) in the government courts? Or when the government schools take action against you for violating the speech code?
  • Chilling. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TripMaster Monkey (862126) * on Friday March 17, 2006 @11:11AM (#14941656)

    Well, I've looked at the PDF [richardneville.com] of the satire website, comparing it with the real deal [pm.gov.au], and I have to say that the two are extremely similar....virtually identical with the exception of content. In this light, the reason offered by Bruce Tonkin, the chief technology officer of Melbourne IT, holds a bit of water:
    "If we receive a complaint from an intellectual property basis claiming that a website directly infringes the rights of another site we would check it, and if it is a direct copy we would suspend the site," he said.
    Upon closer observation, however, this reason leaks like a sieve. The parody websise is not a direct copy...far from it, since the content is radically different. This reason also conveniently glosses over the rather important fact that the Melbourne IT was ordered to yank the website by the Australian Government.

    Mr.Tonkin goes on to say:
    "To us it looks like a phishing site."
    Phishing??? Phishing for what??? This claim is patently ridiculous.

    The reason Melbourne IT yanked the website is pure and simple: they were told to by the Government.

    Our fundamental human rights are being slowly whittled away...not only in America, but around the world. There is no save harbor. There is nowhere to hide from the oppression. Concerned citizens have to make a stand now...not because it is the right thing to do, but because they have no other option, finding themselves with their backs against the wall.
    • >Upon closer observation, however, this reason leaks like a sieve. The parody websise is not a direct copy...far from it, since the content is radically different. This reason also conveniently glosses over the rather important fact that the Melbourne IT was ordered to yank the website by the Australian Government.

      Copyright can exist in the layout of a website. In many countries, parody would be protected under a "fair use" provision, however Australia doesn't protect fair use, and additionally has no ri
  • For crying out loud! A parody is to make fun of something by keeping enough alike to make it seem "real" while twisting enough to make it "too real" or "too weird".

    For me, it seems like the PM was afraid his voters are dumb enough to actually take the parody as a real statement from him.

    Or maybe his speeches are nonsensical enough that a spoof COULD actually be real.

    The choice is his.
    • If he's like our Republicans, then yes, his constituents would be easily confused. Very easily. In fact, they think they're voting for conservatives, you know, the fellows who are fiscally responsible, want smaller government, believe in personal responsiblity, and will stop at nothing to keep that queen bitch Hillary and her ugly daughter in their place.
  • Satire (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mwvdlee (775178) on Friday March 17, 2006 @11:11AM (#14941660) Homepage
    I'm probably going to get marked as a troll or something but the site (see google cache elsewhere) does indeed try to look identical to the real site and links everything but the speeches to the original site, down to the copyright notice.
    Copying material for satire is probably legal in this case, but he should not have misrepresented ownership of the text he wrote.
  • As an Australian ... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by OzPeter (195038) on Friday March 17, 2006 @11:12AM (#14941665)
    when I was reading the "speech" I could hear it as the words of John Howard. Whoever wrote it did a great job in mimicking Howard's speech writers. It seemed spot on to me.

    On the other hand, for the Aussies reading this .. my visions of John Howard were formed in the 80's from the radio comedy How green was my cactus [cactus.com.au] where his character was "Little Johnny Howard". I'll never be able to shake that caricature of him :-)

    But yeah .. it sucks not to have free speech.
  • Johnny gets tough! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ockegheim (808089) on Friday March 17, 2006 @11:16AM (#14941691)

    Well at last he's doing something about sedition [news.com.au] instead of just talking about it. I'd better stop thinking freely.

    Any Australian would know this is a fake speech because the Mr Howard is pathologically unable to apologise for anything.

  • by CSHARP123 (904951) on Friday March 17, 2006 @11:28AM (#14941758)
    During my recent trip to India, also horribly touched with extremist violence, I was reminded by their soft spoken Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, that the British had seriously erred by clinging too long to their former colony. Despite widespread opposition to their presence, British politicians continued to insist that their departure would lead to chaos. Dr Singh said, 'But it would be our chaos, dont you see?' At that moment I understood what he was saying.

    Atleast people in India seems to elect a sensible PM. Our politicians have lot to learn. May be Indians elect educated people to the top post(current president used to be a scientist). Especially in US, we have elected an idiot to the top post and enitre world is affected by him. No wonder world hates us.

    • Our politicians have lot to learn.

      Not really. It's not the politicians who decide who get into office, it's the voters. If the best way to get elected is by being a lying, conniving asshole then this just means that those are the politicians who will get there. They have already learned all they need to learn: how to get political power.

      Meanwhile, the honest politicians are still around, they're just not getting very many votes so you don't tend to see much of them.

      This might be because honest politicians
  • Rights vs Laws (Score:4, Insightful)

    by stlhawkeye (868951) on Friday March 17, 2006 @11:32AM (#14941793) Homepage Journal
    This is one of those tricky intersections of "rights" and "law." Note that "rights" are things we have whether the law recognizes it or not. That's the classic liberal "natural law" version, and it's what most modernized democracies found their legal system on. Among those rights are speech, especially the right to speech of a political nature. The law protects IP because such laws ultimately benefit everybody (in theory), but this guy MIGHT be breaking IP laws to make a political statement. My take would be that his political statement isn't being silenced, just this particular method of making it. The guy could probably re-package or re-do the web site to make it more clearly a parody and get around the IP laws on this. What pisses me off is that it was just SHUT DOWN rather than trying this very reasonable intermediate step.
  • by davem2 (961858) on Friday March 17, 2006 @11:42AM (#14941890)
    Australians have no legal guarantee of free speech and we've never demanded one. All Western Governments have been clamping down on human rights since 9/11 and people keep voting them back in.
  • I'm reminded of John Howard's apology in The Games [abc.net.au]. Except that in that apology the distinguished, official-looking gentleman delivering the speech never claimed to be anybody other than John Howard, speaking from Sydney Australia.

    This was perfectly true: he really was John Howard [imdb.com], just not the John Howard [pm.gov.au]. But few people outside of Australia know what the John Howard who hangs out in Canberra looks like...

    ...laura

  • Rotten tomatoes will make a comeback!
  • by SlappyBastard (961143) on Friday March 17, 2006 @12:05PM (#14942074) Homepage
    Historically, free societies have been controlled very easily because the means of mass producing propoganda were easily centered in the hands of a few elites. Basically, the same people who sold you your thoughts every day were the ones who bought your government every day. The internet has blown the hinges off this system. Now, you have small fries all over the world projecting power and strength well beyond what the system has determined is their right. One blog, backed by a good mind, can destroy a politician. And the bastards are scared. This sort of arbitrary exercise of authority is exactly what people do when they're scared. The system is trying to get a handle on the internet, before the internet becomes big enough and strong to end their control of the means of production of propoganda. Unfortunately, that boat has already sailed. It's hard being a pol.
  • "... There are men of ambition so depraved, who would rejoice to be called wicked, if with that they could appear what the corruptions of the word, and the servility of historians, have denominated great.

    "But these same men would never have courage to consummate their crimes, were they taught that these crimes would render them contemptible, and still more, ridiculous."

    ... William Sampson, "The Causes of the Troubles in Ireland" [rewinn.com], 1806

  • by Any Web Loco (555458) on Friday March 17, 2006 @12:36PM (#14942328) Homepage
    The Oz Government requested that the site be taken down on the grounds of a potential copyright infringement. It's unclear from the article how the request was made, but they usually come in the form of a "take-down" issued by the Australian Communications and Media Authority under the Broadcasting Services Act (Google 'em, I'm lazy) which goes to the orgainsation hosting the site and says that there's a website which uses copyrighted material without the authority of the copyright holder, please take it down within 48 hours (IIRC). Process open to abuse? Absolutely.

    Take Down notices don't turn up as often as you'd think but even if one wasn't issued, when the Government called Melbourne IT, you can bet that they said "how high"..

    Fair use. Yes, Australia has Fair Use exceptions within their copyright regime and they extend to the use of copyrighted material for the purposes of satire. This site clearly falls within the exception.

    Further, Australians have an "implied right" of "freedom of political communication". Basically, the Australian Consitution "implies" that Australians have the right of free speech insofar as that speech relates to politicians and the political process (ie because your speech relates to the election of government and by extension politicians, you are free to say what you want - approximately accurate nutshell). It's actually quite restricted and has failed as a defence (it's not a positive right like the US right, only a defence) on a number of occasions, most notably when a satirical song was created about an Australian politician called Pauline Hanson by a satirist called Pauline Pantsdown. It was an hilarious satire using Pauline Hanson's own words but mixed up & rephrased (definitely worth googling).

    I gues that the end story here is that the Australian Govt. have done themselves NO favours. Requesting the site be taken down was always going to make the press and was always going to go against the Govt. End result is better publicity for his piece.

    And it's not bad - gets the tone right and doesn't resort to the usual "nah-nah-nah" that passes for political satire in Australia.

    Pretty much spot on, content included.

    And could someone do the guy a favour & mirror the PDF?
  • by femto (459605) on Friday March 17, 2006 @06:38PM (#14945447) Homepage

    The site was hosted on Yahoo and the domain name registeres with Melbourne IT. The site is still on Yahoo's servers and can be downloaded using an IP address and an absolute URL (so their virtual server knows which website you want. By way of explanation, here is something I previously submitted as a story:

    At the request of the Australian government [australia.gov.au], domain name registrar Melbourne IT [melbourneit.com.au] has removed DNS entries for a political opponent of a ruling political party [liberal.org.au] and its policies in Iraq.

    Richard Neville [richardneville.com] created a parody of one of the Australian Prime Minister's [pm.gov.au] speeches [pm.gov.au] and posted it on a the website www.johnhowardpm.org [johnhowardpm.org]. After a day the website mysteriously disappeared from the Internet. Melbourne IT, domain registrar for johnhowardpm.org, and Yahoo [yahoo.com], the website host, both denied knowledge.

    Tim Longhurst [timlonghurst.com] has been investigating. After two days two anonymous Melbourne IT technicians have come forward and told him that "johnhowardpm.org" was removed from DNS at the request of representatives from the Australian government, without the knowledge of the domain owner. Normal proceedure is for the domain owner to at least be notified.

    Australian Internet users can no longer read www.johnhowardpm.org [johnhowardpm.org]. Yahoo's DNS server (yns1.yahoo.com) still resolves johnhowardpm.org and the pages still exist on Yahoo's server (premium7.geo.vip.re4.yahoo.com = 216.39.58.74). They may be retrieved by sending a http GET request using telnet, or by setting one's HTTP proxy to 216.39.58.74 and typing "http://www.johnhowardpm.org/" into a browser address bar.

    Given that the parody was not obscene, and its facts were well backed with references the only justification seems to be political censorship by Melbourne IT and the Australian government. The Internet equivalent of a political assassination to shut someone up.

    If "The Net treats censorship as a defect and routes around it." [wikiquote.org], what is the future for Melbourne IT as a registrar? The High Court of Australia [hcourt.gov.au] has also ruled that the Australian Constitution [aph.gov.au] contains a right to freedom of political speech.

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