After four years of haggling and endless revisions, the controversial cybercrime treaty has been signed by 30 countries.
Years of debate went into the international treaty to combat online crime before it was finally signed by representatives of 26 Council of Europe member states, the US, Canada, Japan and South Africa.
While Australia is not a signatory to the pact, the Australian Government has been a leader in drafting tough computer crime laws, passing the Cybercrime Bill 2001 earlier this year.
The bill is similar to many of the conventions covered in the treaty, which sets rules on how the Internet should be policed.
The cybercrime treaty will be used to establish international cooperation in fighting fraud and hacking, but has been strongly opposed by civil rights groups and Internet service providers (ISPs) who claim it imposes heavy burdens on providers to monitor services.
This led to one exclusion to the treaty covering racial hatred as Europe is trying to ban racial hate from the Internet.
However, the US is concerned that banning such Web sites would go against the First Amendment, forcing the issue to be dealt with in a new protocol to be drafted by next July.
The European Parliament is also in the process of drafting new laws on data protection, giving more scope to law enforcement authorities to access phone and Internet traffic. It also includes a ban on unsolicited e-mail.
Australia already has these laws in place and under the new Privacy Act, which comes into effect later this month, unsolicited e-mail will also be banned here. Federal Attorney General Daryl Williams was unavailable to comment as to why Australia had not signed the treaty.