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Australia's Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has announced that the government has formally signed the European Convention on Cybercrime.Doing so was the final step in becoming party to the convention, after the Cybercrime Amendment Bill passed through Australia's Parliament in 2012.The A-G said the move will “will help combat criminal offences relating to forgery, fraud, child pornography, and infringement of copyright and intellectual property”.Among other things, the convention includes controversial data retention provisions that are still the subject of an inquiry by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security. Most of the telecommunications industry has resisted internet data retention on the basis of cost, and because of the challenges distinguishing between “metadata” – which the government says is the limit of its requirement – and the content of communications.
The following offences are defined by the Convention: illegal access, illegal interception, data interference, system interference, misuse of devices, computer-related forgery, computer-related fraud, offences related to child pornography and offences related to copyright and neighbouring rights.It also sets out such procedural law issues as expedited preservation of stored data, expedited preservation and partial disclosure of traffic data, production order, search and seizure of computer data, real-time collection of traffic data, and interception of content data. In addition, the Convention contains a provision on a specific type of transborder access to stored computer data which does not require mutual assistance (with consent or where publicly available) and provides for the setting up of a 24/7 network for ensuring speedy assistance among the Signatory Parties.The Convention is the product of four years of work by European and international experts. It has been supplemented by an Additional Protocol making any publication of racist and xenophobic propaganda via computer networks a criminal offence. Currently, cyber terrorism is also studied in the framework of the Convention.