Board Report: 2010 Annual General Meeting
1 November 2010

On behalf of the Board, I am pleased to present the EFA Annual Report for 2010.

I would like to thank the Board for their hard work, and offer particular thanks to previous chair Nicolas Suzor for his enormous contributions to EFA. Much of the incisive legal analysis and good writing EFA has produced in the last few years has been due to Nic's hard work.

I would also like to thank Geordie Guy for his work on the board over the last several years. Geordie was a fierce advocate for the privacy of Australians and an implacable foe of the net censorship proposal. Geordie often served as the voice of EFA in the media and his contribution will be missed.

We also owe much of our success in publicising the censorship issue, and others, to Peter Black and Michael Jones, who came on board to help us launch the Open Internet campaign and better manage our online presence.

Here are the highlights of the year gone by - it has been an exciting one with some major successes.

EFA have continued to raise our profile and take a leading role in the debate on internet issues in Australia. Although it can sometimes be difficult to get mainstream interest in issues specific to the internet, I'm pleased to say that struggling to be heard is not EFA's main problem. The big challenge for the next year is to make sure EFA can maintain its position as a thought leader in the debates on censorship, privacy and the internet's role in society. We want to provide quality information to the public, journalists, researchers and lawmakers on a variety of issues while continuing to help organise, rally and inform grassroots activists. To capitalise on our recent successes and achieve our goal, which is to stand up for the rights of Australian internet users, we need your help more than ever.

1. Mandatory Internet Censorship

The filter continued to be the hot topic for EFA over the last year. As the program came closer to being introduced in Parliament, we ramped up our efforts to bring more scrutiny and better information to the public. EFA met with key lawmakers and appeared in many dozens of radio, print and TV stories on the subject including debates with Senator Conroy himself.

The release of the report on the Government's "Live Pilot" of filtering in December last year, making claims such as "100 per cent accuracy and a negligible impact on internet speed", gave EFA a good opportunity to correct the record in the public debate.

EFA launched several successful campaigns against the filter in the last year. The "Great Australian Internet Blackout", developed in conjunction with Jeff Waugh, encouraged Australian webmasters to turn black for a day to draw attention to issue. Hundreds of web sites participated, and there was significant media interest.

In order to keep the pressure on, EFA hired a full-time campaign manager for several months during the year to coordinate our various outreach and lobbying efforts. We had many good candidates apply, and were pleased to welcome Peter Black on board to help run the campaign. With Pete's help we had several highly visible successes such as the launch and continuing popularity of the Open Internet campaign at http://openinternet.com.au.

We followed this up with the "Time to Tell Mum" campaign in May. In an effort to bring the censorship issue to the attention of the wider public, we had help from a creative agency and comedian Akmal Saleh in getting the message out in a light-hearted way. The campaign was not without controversy, but resulted in over 50,000 people reporting back that they'd taken action.

Among other activities, EFA ran a public forum in Melbourne, submitted our petition to the Senate with over 19,000 signatures, and lodged a quality submission to the DBCDE's inquiry on Transparency in censorship. In a clear sign that our message was cutting through, EFA and several members of the Board were first condemned in Parliament by the Minister and later praised for our activism by Senator Scott Ludlam.

The filter policy is now looking decidedly sickly. Senator Conroy has deferred its implementation until an inquiry into the Refused Classification category can be completed, but this did not stop the Coalition finally coming out against the policy. With the Coalition, Greens and independents now on record against the filter, it would be an understatement to say it faces an uphill battle in Parliament. Nevertheless, while it remains Government policy EFA will continue to hold them to account.

More info:

EFA's submission: http://localhost/main/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/2010-EFA-DBCDE-Transparency.pdf
The Great Australian Internet Blackout: http://www.internetblackout.com.au/
Open Internet: http://openinternet.com.au
Time to Tell Mum: http://timetotellmum.com.au
EFA attacked in the Senate: http://www.efa.org.au/2010/03/16/efa-responds-to-senator-conroy/

2. R-18+ Games

The need for an R-18+ category for computer and video games becomes more acute every year. In the past year we have seen controversies over such popular games as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Left 4 Dead 2. Although we're far from seeing reform, the resignation of South Australia's Michael Atkinson, one of the state Attorneys General most opposed to reform, is a positive step.

We were pleased that the Attorney General's public consultation occurred, with a record number of submissions - nearly 60,000! EFA made a high quality submission in conjunction with AusGamers.

In the coming year, we hope that the proposed review of the Refused Classification category will provide a catalyst for reform in this area, and we will lobby to see that some change occurs.

See:
AG's website: http://www.ag.gov.au/gamesclassification
EFA's submission: http://bit.ly/cwbbhd

3. Appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal

Last year EFA's web host, Sublime, received a take-down notice from ACMA because of a link to prohibited content in an EFA blog post. An appeal was lodged with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal on Sublime's behalf, with former EFA Chair Dale Clapperton representing us and Sublime.

We argued that the takedown notice was incorrectly sent as it violated the implied right to freedom of political communication in the Australian constitution and recognised by the Act in question. We also argued that the law was incorrectly applied when the notice was issued to Sublime instead of EFA.

Unfortunately, our appeal was unsuccessful, a disappointment if not a surprise. The silver lining here is the additional scrutiny that the current system gained in the media, including a comprehensive discussion on the ABC's Four Corners.

Information on the appeal: http://www.efa.org.au/2010/05/18/aat-upholds-efa-link-deletion/
Four Corners "Access Denied": http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/special_eds/20100510/internet/

4. Privacy

Privacy issues are becoming an increasing part of EFA's efforts. Apart from internet censorship, privacy now accounts for the bulk of media enquiries received by EFA.

We saw privacy in the news this year during the South Australian elections, where amendments to the Elections Act seemed set to conflict with the right of Australians to post commentary on the internet without revealing their name and address. However, some of the most important issues have centred around privacy policies of social networking sites such as Facebook. Although less concerning than invasive government polices (see below), they impact almost every Australian and there is keen media interest in these stories. EFA was often called upon to explain the issues.

One of the nastiest surprises and biggest fights in the coming year was the revelation that the Attorney General's department has been pushing for a tough new data retention regime in Australia by holding secret meetings with industry. The wish-list for law enforcement is extremely broad, reportedly up to and including web usage logs. Information on the meetings obtained under Freedom of Information was censored to the point where no reliable details are yet in the public domain, though leaks indicate the scheme will be extremely broad. EFA made a submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Environment, Communications and the Arts opposing this scheme, and testified before the committee in Canberra in October.

In the coming year, EFA will push hard as a citizens' advocate on privacy matters, and prepare some quality up-to-date materials around privacy and social networking, RFID, data retention and other issues for the Australian public. We also plan to cooperate closely with colleagues at the Australian Privacy Foundation.

EFA’s privacy submission: http://bit.ly/bHQf8U

5. Copyright

The big case for Australian Copyright this year was AFACT v iiNet, in which the copyright industry sued Australia's third-largest ISP for failing to adequately police their users' file-sharing activities. In a landmark decision, Justice Dennis Cowdroy ruled that iiNet had not authorised the file-sharing taking place on its network - and even if it had, "safe harbour" provisions would shield them from liability. It was a comprehensive defeat for the copyright lobby, who were even taken to task for their misleading use of the word "theft" in their name.

Of course, AFACT appealed. Arguments have been heard and we are now waiting on the Federal Court to decide on the appeal. If the case eventually reaches the High Court, EFA will consider making or contributing to an amicus curiae brief on behalf of Australian net users.

"Graduated response" or "three strikes" continues to remain the preferred policy of the copyright industry around the world. Minister Conroy, as well as rubbishing iiNet's defence, has once expressed some sympathy for this policy. After the hopeful demise of the filter, could this be EFA's next big fight?

See Nic Suzor's summary of the iiNet decision: http://bit.ly/dslCAH

6. ACTA

The negotiation of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement by several nations including Australia has caused considerable concern around the world. Ostensibly targeted at the commercial trade in counterfeit goods, negotiations have been conducted in secrecy. Leaks and rumours have demonstrated that attempts have been made to extend the treaty to cover the internet and to even introduce measures such as statutory damages for file sharing and "three strikes" laws to terminate the internet access of repeat infringers.

EFA has sought and participated in several meetings with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade as well as the Minister for Trade on this issue. Although we have received assurances that accession to the treaty will involve no changes to domestic copyright enforcement, we'll continue to monitor the situation. We have expressed deep concerns about the secrecy of the process. Negotiations are due to finish shortly, and we will let you know the outcome for the Australian IP landscape. We are skeptical that signing ACTA will bring any real benefits for Australia.

See: http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2010/04/acta-treaty/

7. ICANN and international affairs

EFA continued it’s engagement with international debates in domain name policy, and other issues related to online rights. EFA is an active member of the Non-Commercial Users Constituency within ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), the major policy development forum for global domain name policy. EFA board member David Cake is the Executive Committee representative for Asia within NCUC, and attended ICANNs 37th meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, in March. David was also selected to serve on ICANNs Security, Stability and Resiliency Review Team, which will be reviewing ICANNs ability to manage these important aspect of the global domain name infrastructure. David also participated via remote participation to ICANN meetings in Seoul and Brussels. Important issues discussed within ICANN during the year included the possible .xxx domain, continuing efforts to introduce new top level domains (and efforts to make participation in the process practical for developing countries), efforts to develop a home for consumer advocacy within ICANN, balancing trademark holders rights with free speech concerns, and proposals to veto new domain names on a ‘morality and public order’ basis.

EFA also joined the Civil Society Information Society Advisory Council (CSISAC), a global effort by civil society groups to contribute constructively to the policy work of the OECD Committee for Information, Computer and Communications Policy (ICCP) and to promote the exchange of information between the OECD and the civil society participants most active in the information technology field. Efforts like this are important to ensure that the Australian internet experience in not represented internationally only by government and commercial voices.

8. Involvement with other Australian organisations

EFA remained an active participant in auDA, the Australian Domain Name Authority, which administers the .au domain name space. In this years auDA board elections EFA nominated former (and future) EFA board member Kimberley Heitman to continue on the auDA board, and is pleased to report that he was returned to the board. In addition, EFA board member David Cake served on the New 2LDs Advisory Panel, a policy panel that considered several proposals for new second level domain names within .au.

EFA also became a member of ACCAN, the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network, Australias peak body for consumers and organisation on issues involving telecommunications and the Internet, and looks forward to positive policy engagement with many other advocacy organisations via that organisation.

9.  Community and volunteers

This year EFA made a concerted effort to reach out to our supporters and the wider community on the issues that matter. The Open Internet project brought EFA’s activism to the attention of thousands of new people and culminated in a fundraising drive that raised in excess of $20,000 for our campaigns. Time To Tell Mum and our revamped social networking presence have continued to attract support.

In the coming year, we want to improve our communications with members, and plan on launching a membership drive shortly to further engage supporters. We want to offer members and the public more in the future - up-to-date information on matters that affect internet users, such as defamation; ways to get legal help; and backgrounders on important issues.

Better organising our force of volunteers is another high priority for the coming year.

Conclusion

Finally, I'd like to thank you for your continued support in the past year. EFA relies entirely on memberships and donations. While I believe we can count 2009-2010 as a successful year for EFA and its aims, there is still much room for improvement. Several important policy areas remain inadequately addressed on the web site. Active engagement with the membership has been less than fantastic, and we have largely relied on the EFA blog to communicate with you. This is far from ideal. Please note that EFA relies almost entirely on its volunteer board to carry out all lobbying activities, campaign management, daily media enquiries, researching and preparation of submissions, writing, blogging and handling enquiries from the general public. If you feel we are heading in the wrong direction or could improve in any area, please get involved. Get in touch with your ideas, and let us know what you can take on. If you're extra keen - or opinionated - consider standing for the EFA board of management.

Here's to an exciting 2011.

Colin Jacobs
Chair