AAC Digest

Regulatory issues impacting the R&E community

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AARNet has been actively engaged with higher education, research and industry bodies in response to Government actions impacting AARNet and the universities. These include the release of the Online Copyright Infringement Discussion Paper, the data retention legislative review process and the recent threat to withdraw operational funding for critical research infrastructure.

Online Copyright Infringement

In July 2014, the Government released an Online Copyright Infringement Discussion Paper, which sought to reduce online copyright infringement by requiring Internet Service Providers to be engaged in the notification and policing of this activity when identified by the owners of the rights to digital content. AARNet worked closely with Universities Australia, who produced a Submission in response to Online Copyright Infringement Discussion Paper (September 2014) that raised two matters of importance for universities:

  1. A proposal to amend authorisation law, which Universities Australia strongly opposed on the basis that it would have increase the risk of universities being held responsible for any infringing acts of students and staff who used university systems to infringe copyright; and
  2. A proposal to extend the existing copyright safe harbours to include universities, which Universities Australia supported.

Subsequently, the Attorney General and Minister for Communications announced new measures to tackle online copyright infringement, which takes into account the two matters raised by Universities Australia.

Data Retention

The Government, with bipartisan support from the Opposition, has passed legislation which will require telecommunications carriers to retain data that describes their customers’ communications, for the purposes of law enforcement and ensuring national security, for a period of two years.

There are potentially significant, and possibly unintended consequences for our sector, not least of which may be a considerable cost in implementing the proposed legislation.

To date, the government has made it clear, both in writing and from discussions, that the intention is for universities to be exempt from this legislation. AARNet is keeping a close watch on developments and is actively engaged with the legislative review process, in collaboration with higher education and research industry bodies to ensure a common and consistent position is maintained.

Research Infrastructure

While AARNet itself is not a capability of the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS), we are proud that most of the capabilities use the network extensively as part of their work in providing critical research infrastructure to Australia’s research sector.

The operational funding to keep these capabilities running has been under threat and until recently, had been linked by the Government to the passing of the proposed Higher Education Deregulation reform legislation.

It was announced in mid-March that the Government would continue funding for NCRIS during 2015/16 and while this has relieved the science and research community, it does not provide certainty beyond this period.

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