2011-04-15 New Zealand passes controversial copyright law as part of Christchurch earthquake emergency measures [Update: 1]

ImageNew Zealand's Minister of Justice and Minister of Commerce Simon Power pictured left.


Email: s.power@ministers.govt.nz
Phone: (04) 817 6803
Fax: (04) 817 6503


An internet buzz was caused by an MP of the currently governing National Party of New Zealand who posted the following tweet just hours before giving a speech in support of the new amendment.


Her response to the online reaction below:


Well, it depends. Is her composer friend also the copyright holder? Besides the strangeness of phrasing the friend's own work as "a compilation of K-pop", her speech shows, as pointed out at Torrent Freak, her understanding of the copyright laws she endorsed appears to be questionable, as does her innocence of copyright infringement. As the burden of proof has been passed to the accused by the law she endorsed, a more clear response is in order.

Her speech is also notable for claiming great losses of income by the entertainment industry due to file sharing, while at the same time giving a history of what she calls the multi - billion dollar Korean movie industry which she says was created by illegal file sharing.

New Zealand's Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill was passed yesterday as part of the emergency legislation dealing with the Christchurch earthquake, and will come into effect on September 1 of this year. It was passed by 111 votes to 11, and was supported by all parties except the Greens and independent MPs Chris Carter and Hone Harawira. The controversial amendment allows for internet accounts to be suspended for up to six months after the user is accused three times of copyright infringement, as well as providing "an efficient, low-cost process to hear illegal file-sharing claims" and awards of up to $15,000 to the copyright owner.

Terry Coles, the Managing director of one of New Zealand's top internet service providers (EOL) describes the law as "effectively useless" since it did not take into account hotspots, shared IP addresses and legal file sharing. Coles also said the ISPs should have been spoken to before the bill was passed, since they were the ones who would be approached by copyright owners and would have to divulge the identity of the accused customer.

Australia's Pirate Party condemned the action, saying Internet access is a universal service, similar to postal services, the phone or even electricity or water. In fact several countries, including Finland, Spain, Estonia and Greece have passed laws that enshrine the right to internet access for all citizens ... "The post office does not stop delivering to your house just because you are suspected of sending photocopies to someone. Yet this is precisely what the New Zealand government are proposing with their Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill. Under the legislation internet users accused of file-sharing three times will be disconnected," said Simon Frew, Acting Secretary.

Thomas Beagle, of Tech Liberty NZ, said the government’s linking of the law with the Christchurch situation was bizarre, plus: "One issue with the law is account-holder liability, which makes the person whose name is on the account legally responsible for all actions that happen across that connection. ... It is going to be punishing the wrong people in a big way. The internet is where we exercise our freedom of speech and our freedom of expression, we can’t cut people off from that in the same way we don’t cut off people’s power or water for wrongdoing.”

When the amendment was initially proposed in 1999, it was met with a huge protest, organized by the Creative Freedom Foundation (CFF). Bronwyn Holloway-Smith, one of the organisation’s founders, says the CFF has concerns with the new law, primarily the disconnection ability and presumption of guilt, but describes the law as an improvement over Section 92A. "A company accusing someone of an offence doesn’t need to provide evidence, the burden of proof is passed to the accused,” Holloway-Smith says. But a secretive trade pact between New Zealand and the US, called the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, will be the main focus of the organisation for now.

The Green MP suggests three courses of action:

  • join the reactivated ‘blackout’ campaign
  • write to the Minister of Justice (above) asking him to repeal the suspension punishment
  • write to the Labour party and ask them to commit to repeal if they are re-elected.

The old internet hashtags #blackout and #s92 are showing minimal activity so far.