Mark Pesce describes himself as “an inventor, writer, theorist, very minor TV personality” (he’s a regular on the ABC’s New Inventors). He is also a major personality in Australian twitter circles. Yesterday Pesce penned an excellent opinion piece connecting two recent Australian court cases. In one a judge ruled that tasteless sexual depictions of Simpsons cartoon characters should be considered child pornography. In the other case, a man was found guilty of distributing child-abuse materials. What he had actually done was pass on a link to a video of a man swinging a baby. He had nothing to do with the creation of the video, but simply shared a link to a video that thousands around the world had already seen.
Now each of these cases in isolation may well be legitimate interpretations of Australian law, but taken together the implications are rather ridiculous. As Pesce observes:
[It] means that viewing a clip of The Simpsons on YouTube will soon be as illegal as watching it on television. In particular, videos showing the various times Homer has strangled Bart – which exist – would be very illegal, the equivalent of the most severe child abuse materials. And God help you if you should flip a link of that video to one of your friends. That’d be “distributing” child-abuse materials, because, where we are now, distribution has expanded to include link-sharing.
Another Australian twitter luminary, Stilgherrian, is fond of seeking out modern day inheritors of King Canute (not Stil’s preferred spelling) who try to turn back the tide. So it seems that Australian courts are joining the RIAA, television stations and the Australian Government in vying for the Canute mantle and attempting to put Pandora’s internet back in the box. They should face reality and give up. As Pesce says, we have reached the end of the age of the gatekeepers.