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Australia

Australia Copyright Safe Harbour Provision Backed By Prime Minister (torrentfreak.com) 30

Moves to introduce a copyright "safe harbor" provision for platforms such as Google and Facebook have received a boost in Australia after receiving backing from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. From a report on TorrentFreak: A report in The Australian indicates that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has given the safe harbor amendments his support. It won't be all plain sailing from here, however. The government is to set up a Senate committee into the copyright amendments to determine whether the amendments will promote piracy as the entertainment industries are warning. The inquiry will launch after the government introduces the Copyright Amendment (Disability Access and Other Measures) Bill into Parliament after March 20. The Australian suggests that under Schedule 2 of the bill, online platforms would receive immunity for infringing user-uploaded content. However, totally immunity is an unrealistic eventuality that would almost certainly have to be tempered by rules concerning takedowns. Those details will be examined in-depth as part of the committee inquiry, which will run its course in advance of parliamentary debate and voting.
Australia

Australia's Retailers Join the Local Giant Banks in Their Battle With Apple Pay (nfcworld.com) 68

More trouble for Apple in Down Under. The $300 billion retail sector has hit back at Apple, saying the global tech giant is trying to freeload on the payments infrastructure built by banks and retailers and restricting iPhone access to payments terminals will hinder loyalty schemes. From a report: The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) has come out in support of the group of four Australian banks seeking stronger negotiation powers with Apple over the introduction of Apple Pay in the country, saying they believe access to the NFC functionality in the iPhone would allow retailers to provide "a richer and more convenient customer experience." The ARA, which represents 5,000 independent and national retailers, says access to the NFC functionality will allow retailers to "develop or participate in mobile wallets that provided a consistent and fully integrated experience to all users regardless of their choice of smartphones" while also allowing loyalty programs, coupons and rewards to be "more effectively integrated into these mobile wallets." "In our view -- for as long as Apple Pay remains the only app that can use the iPhone's NFC functionality -- the potential for innovation in mobile wallets and mobile payments will be limited," the ARA says in a submission to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
Piracy

Aussie Internet Pirates Are The Best Customers (torrentfreak.com) 48

A report commissioned by the Australian government has found a drop in piracy rates for 2016. The fall is being attributed to improved availability of legal streaming alternatives, but as TorrentFreak points out, the report also reveals that the much reviled Aussie pirate is often the industry's best customer. From the report: Streaming, on the other hand, increased from 54% to 57% year on year, with TV shows and movies making the biggest gains. "The proportion of internet users who streamed TV programs increased from 34% to 38% (making TV the most commonly accessed content type via online streaming) and the proportion of internet users who streamed movies increased from 25% to 29%," the report reads. This year the most-consumed content were TV shows (41%, up from 38% in 2015), music (39%, down from 42% in 2015) and movies (33%) and video games (15%). When all four content types were considered, the survey found that consumers streaming content on a weekly basis increased significantly, with 71% doing so for music and videos games, 55% for TV programs and 51% for movies. [...] However, in yet another blow to those who believe that genuine consumers and pirates are completely different and separate animals, the survey also reveals that millions of pirates are also consumers of legitimate content. In 2016, just 6% of Internet users exclusively obtained content from pirate sources. And there was an improvement in other areas too. When the survey presents figures from internet users who consumed content in the period (instead of just 'all Internet users 12+'), 37% consumed at least one unlawful file, down from 43% in the same period in 2015. Using the same parameters, 9% consumed all of their files unlawfully, down from 12% in 2015. But while there have been improvements in a number of areas, the volume of content being consumed illegally is not coming down across the board. According to the report, an estimated 279m music tracks, 56m TV shows, 34m movies, and 5m video games were consumed in the three month period.
Australia

Energy Prices Skyrocket in South Australia (yahoo.com) 269

Slashdot reader sycodon quotes an article from AFR: Turmoil in South Australia's heavily wind-reliant electricity market has forced the state government to plead with the owner of a mothballed gas-fired power station to turn it back on. The emergency measures are needed to ease punishing costs for South Australian industry as National Electricity Market prices in the state have frequently surged above $1000 a megawatt hour this month and at one point on Tuesday hit the $14,000/MWh maximum price...
"A planned outage of the Heywood Interconnector to Victoria, coupled with higher than expected gas prices and severe weather conditions have contributed to large-scale price volatility in the energy spot market in recent days," said South Australia's energy minister, Tom Koutsantonis. The Australian Associated Press adds that "The state Labor government has invested heavily in wind and solar energy at the expense of baseload power, a move critics say has left the state exposed during poor weather. Mr. Koutsantonis has described the energy volatility as a failure of the national energy market because a lack of interconnection means South Australia often produces more renewable power than it can sell into the grid. But opposition spokesman Dan van Holst Pellekaan said the government had been too hasty to invest in renewables."
Australia

Valve Loses Australian Court Battle Over Steam (computerworld.com.au) 178

angry tapir writes: Valve Software has lost court action launched against it by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. The Australian court case centered on the refund policies of Valve Software's Steam digital distribution service. Some of Steam's refund policies contradicted the statutory guarantees of the Australian Consumer Law, the court found. A hearing on penalties is yet to be held.
Such "false or misleading representations about guarantees" include: consumers were not entitled to a refund for digitally downloaded games purchased from Valve via the Steam website or Steam Client (in any circumstances); Valve had excluded statutory guarantees and/or warranties that goods would be of acceptable quality; and Valve had restricted or modified statutory guarantees and/or warranties of acceptable quality. Valve has contested ACCC's arguments on a number of grounds.
Censorship

Draconian Aussie Science Censorship Law Takes Effect Next Month (theconversation.com) 265

An anonymous reader writes: The Conversation reports that beginning next month Australian scientists and engineers face 10 years imprisonment for communicating without a government permit on biotech, robotics or manufacturing. Geoffrey Roberston QC says the laws are "sloppily drafted" and threatens research with "no sensible connection to military technology". But the government is barreling ahead, despite warnings from Defence Report it will kill Australia's high-tech economy. The law is opposed by Civil Liberties Australia where scientists are petitioning against it.
Australia

Extreme Heat Knocks Out Internet In Australia 103

An anonymous reader writes with news that bad weather caused internet connectivity problems for users in Perth, Western Australia on Monday. But it wasn't raging storms or lightning that caused this outage — it was extreme heat. Monday was the 6th hottest day on record for Perth, peaking around 44.4 C (111.9 F). Thousands of iiNet customers across Australia found themselves offline for about six and a half hours after the company shut down some of its systems at its Perth data center at about 4.30pm AEDST because of record breaking-temperatures. ... "[W]e shut down our servers as a precautionary measure," an iiNet spokesman said late Monday night. "Although redundancy plans ensured over 98 per cent of customers remained unaffected, some customers experienced issues reconnecting to the internet." ... Users in Western Australia, NSW, Victoria and South Australia took to Twitter, Facebook and broadband forum Whirlpool to post their frustrations to the country's second largest DSL internet service provider.
Australia

Final Days For Australia's Analog TV 192

jones_supa writes "The switch to digital TV broadcasts in Australia has entered its final few days, with Sydney's analog signals being fully switched off today, 3 December. That just leaves Melbourne plus remote central and eastern Australia — and those areas will be switched over on 10 December, completing the country's transition to digital TV. The government runs an information site to assist the remaining crusty luddites with the switch-over."
Australia

PAX Prime: An Extra Day In 2013, and Plans For Australia 45

PAX Prime, probably by far the largest ongoing event spawned by a web comic, is in progress right now in Seattle, with an attendance of 70,000 gamers (and a smaller number of dancing stormtroopers). Two big announcements about future PAX events were announced on Saturday. The first is that next year's event will be a four-day gathering rather than the thus-far usual three; the second is that, some time next year, PAX will make its first international foray, with an event in Australia — exact time and place to be determined.
Australia

2 Year Data Retention For Australian ISPs 86

freddienumber13 writes "Following similar acts passed by foreign governments, the Australian government is now seeking feedback on its plans to bring into law the requirement for ISPs to retain user data for up to 2 years. They're also seeking changes to the law that would allow undercover ASIO agents and its sources to commit crimes which would include, for example, hacking into your computer."
Australia

Australia To Review Copyright Fair Use 87

New submitter freddienumber13 writes "The Australian Government has announced a review of the copyright act to look at the provisions of fair use and exceptions with a view towards considering whether or not the law has kept pace with technology and thus if further provisions are required to ensure the act remains relevant and effective." Don't hold your breath; the committee has until November 30th, 2013 to create their report. Maybe Australians will see their Fair Use rights expanded in a time when it's in fashion to expand copyright protections.
Australia

Australian Gov't Asks eBay To Name Big Sellers 215

beaverdownunder writes "In an effort to combat fraudulent claims lodged within its Centrelink welfare-payment agency, the Australian Government has asked auction-site eBay to name all Aussies who sold more than $20,000 worth of goods in the last year. Should someone be found to have been doing such a high-volume of business on eBay while claiming Centrelink benefits but not declaring that income, they could potentially face prosecution. However, the president of the Australian Council for Civil Liberties, Terry O'Gorman, says this action is a gross invasion of privacy. 'What we say should happen is that if police have probable cause for investigating someone, they go to a magistrate, they get a warrant and they access that person's eBay records that way,' he said."
Australia

Botched Repair Likely Cause of Combusting iPhone After Flight 181

aesoteric writes "The combustion of an Apple iPhone 4 after a regional flight in Australia was likely caused by a botched repair of the handset by an unauthorized repairer, according to air safety investigators in the U.S. and Australia. A small metal screw had been misplaced in the battery bay of the handset. The screw punctured the battery casing and caused an internal short circuit, making the iPhone emit dense smoke (PDF)."
Australia

Australian WiFi Inventors Win US Legal Battle 193

First time accepted submitter Kangburra writes "Australian government science body CSIRO said Sunday it had won a multi-million-dollar legal settlement in the United States to license its patented technology that underpins the WiFi platform worldwide. Scientists from the agency invented the wireless local area network (WLAN) technology that is the basis of the WiFi signal employed by computers, smartphones and other Internet-ready devices around the world."
Australia

Aussies Could Use Elephants To Fight Invasive Species 274

A type of invasive African grass is a major cause of wildfires in Australia. The giant gamba grass is too large for cattle and the native marsupial grazers to eat, but David Bowman, a professor of environmental change biology at the University of Tasmania has a plan. He says that elephants or rhinoceroses could eat the pest grass. "... the only other methods likely to control gamba grass involve using chemicals or physically clearing the land, which would destroy the habitat. Using mega-herbivores may ultimately be more practical and cost-effective, and it would help to conserve animals that are threatened by poaching in their native environments," he said. This plan makes you wonder just how big a Chinese needle snake can grow.

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