Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) has warned Australia’s decision to join an international treaty on cybercrime could trigger tough new laws around online copyright infringement.
The Federal Government plans to sign the treaty to help combat child pornography, hackers and other computer-related offences.
The Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime is aimed as a guide for nations developing comprehensive national legislation around criminal activity over the Web. It also acts as a framework for international co-operation between countries.
It was put in force in July 2004 and is the only binding international treaty on cybercrime.
EFA vice-chair, Geordie Guy, was concerned about several treaty requirements, such as tougher cyber copyright infringement around criminal offences and opening up Australian networks to other law enforcement agencies globally.
There would also have to be wider search and seizure laws in place around equipment such as computers and laptops, he explained.
“If somebody in the US was thought to be a terrorist, or someone thought that Australia was infringing copyright on a US-based company, it will be a requirement that network operators in Australia open up their networks to those US-based parties,” Guy said. “It’s unacceptable to us.
“When we accede to this, we’ll be watching very closely what sort of laws are proposed. If we feel it unfairly infringes on the rights of Australians and ISPs, we’ll be lobbying against that on their behalf.”
In a statement, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Stephen Smith, said cybercrime posed a significant challenge for law enforcement and the criminal justice system.
“The Internet makes it easy for criminals to operate from abroad, especially from those countries where regulations and enforcement arrangements are weak,” he said. “It is critical that laws designed to combat cybercrime are harmonised, or are at least compatible to allow for cooperation internationally.”
The convention requires countries to criminalise four types of offences against the confidentiality, integrity and availability of computer data and systems. They include illegal access to computer systems, interception, data interference, systems interference and the misuse of devices; computer-related offences including forgery and fraud; content-related offences including child pornography; and offences related to the infringement of copyright and other related rights.
It also establishes procedures to make investigations more efficient and provides systems to facilitate international co-operation to help authorities from one country collect data in another country.
Other treaty conditions include enabling authorities to request disclosure of specific computer data; allowing authorities to collect or record traffic data in real-time; establishing a 24/7 network to provide immediate help to investigators; and facilitating extradition and the exchange of information.
There are more than 40 countries taking part in the convention including the US, Canada, Japan and South Africa.