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Privacy Law and Policy Reporter

Privacy Law and Policy Reporter (PLPR)
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Greenleaf, Graham; Waters, Nigel --- "Private parts" [1999] PrivLawPRpr 16; (1999) 5(8) Privacy Law & Policy Reporter 163

Private parts

compiled by Graham Greenleaf and Nigel Waters

Walsh scene 5: Copyright as censorship?

Copyright was originally developed partly as another censorship device for the Tudor state, and throughout the ages governments have sporadically used it as instrument of political censorship. An Australian example is the ‘Documents on Australian Defence and Foreign Policy’ case (Commonwealth v Fairfax [1980] HCA 44; (1980) 147 CLR 39,, where the Federal Government successfully sought to suppress publication of Foreign Affairs documents concerning (among other things) East Timor by resort to copyright law.

On 15 March Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) received a ‘please explain’ letter from AusInfo concerning the copy of the Walsh Report that has been on the EFA site since 1997 (see p 145 of this issue for the first four scenes of this drama). AusInfo is responsible for the administration of copyright for the Commonwealth, including granting reproduction permissions. Ausinfo requested EFA’s advice on the ‘source of reproduction permission’, noting that one of its terms for reproduction permission is the inclusion of an acknowledgment of the original source. ‘No acknowledgment was made in your work’ they say, and nor can they locate any correspondence ‘seeking permission to reproduce this material’. An innocuous letter on its face, but the timing is hardly coincidental.

Greg Taylor states that he received permission to place the report on the EFA website in 1997 from a senior official of the Federal Attorney General’s Department. He also rejects the claim of lack of acknowledgment, given that the website says ‘the Walsh Report, prepared in 1996 by the Australian Attorney General’s Department’.

Copies of the Walsh Report are now popping up on sites outside Australia, a common occurrence when internet censorship is feared. Examples can be found at Cyber Rights ( and at MIT (

Federal legislation consultations underway

The Federal Attorney General’s Department has established a ‘Core Consultative Group’ (CCG) with which it is consulting concerning the proposed Australian federal privacy legislation covering the private sector. The CCG comprises representatives of 30 organisations, comprising 16 business organisations, nine consumer, privacy and professional organisations, and five government representatives (including Privacy Commissioners).

The first meeting on 17 March in Canberra was not attended by most of the consumer and privacy organisations, due to the Common-wealth not providing any travel funds. The Attorney General addressed the meeting. The process is intended to be relatively short, with drafting instructions finalised by mid-year.

Telecoms surveillance seminar

A seminar on ‘Interception, surveillance and privacy in the new telecommunications environment: issues for carriers and carriage service providers and their advisers’ will be held at the Faculty of Law, University of Sydney on 4 May at 6-8pm. The seminar will provide an overview of privacy protection and the regulation of surveillance and interception in the post 30 June 1997 telecom-munications regime. It will review the evolving statutory framework, focusing on those issues of which carriers and carriage service providers and their advisers should be aware, including encryption policy, ‘hacking’ offences, ACIF co-regulation, and the TIO scheme. The presenters are Dr Roger Magnusson of the Faculty of Law and Peter Leonard of Gilbert & Tobin. The cost is $125, and enquiries should be directed to Ms Jenny Litman on 9351 0238 or

EFA Executive Director appointed

Internet liberties advocate Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) has appointed an Executive Director, Jon (Darce) Cassidy of Adelaide. He has 30 years experience as ABC journalist, and has taught Media Studies at RMIT. EFA Chair Kimberley Heitman characterises the appointment as a major step forward for EFA, which has depended entirely on volunteer board members since its foundation in 1994. The EFA has emerged over the past year as the most prominent public voice dealing with ‘across the board’ internet issues such as privacy, censorship, encryption and copyright, so Mr Cassidy is likely to play a significant role in future internet privacy debates in Australia.

European Union reports on internet privacy

In March 1999 the art 29 Working Party (comprised of EU Data Protection Commissioners established under the EU Privacy Directives) issued two new reports on internet privacy:

Copies are available at

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