Today on Radio New Zealand National I talk about the dreadful piece of copyright that our last government foisted on us, and that, incredibly, the current one – which claims to ‘get’ the Internet to the extent of throwing a lot of our tax money at it – intends to implement regardless.
This really is bad. Nowhere else has implemented law which assumes people are guilty if they are accused. That’s because that’s contrary to natural justice. The UK government, for instance, has just announced that it has dropped consideration of a similar law. But we are gonig ahead. Is this the kind of way we want New Zealand to stand out – unjust law?
Q: Copyright law has been in the news a bit – what’s going on?
A: We are going ahead with a terrible piece of law which nowhere else in the civlised world would adopt. The UK Minister of intellectual property has ruled out a law like the worst part of our Copyright Act, saying it would be overly complex and impractical.
Q: This is the law you were talking about last year
A: That’s right. This is the “guilt by accusation” law, that says that people can get their Internet feed cut off just by being accused of copyright infringement. The law was pushed through last year by the former minister Judith Tizard, but very worst bits need the government to explicitly switch them on by passing an order in council.
Q: And is the government going to do that?
A: Ministers say they are. No other major country has introduced anything like this. Even US copyright law, which is seen many to be very weighted against ordinary users, doesn’t go this far. This is the abyss that the UK has stepped back from, but it looks as though we are just going to jump straight in.
Q: Remind me why this law is so bad again?
A: It’s disproportionate to cut off Internet for a mere civil matter – we wouldn’t cut off someone’s post service or their power, would we – it’s way harsher than anywhere else – and it’s just plain unjust to punish someone on the basis of an accusation.
Q: What about the public investment in broadband?
A: What about it, indeed? We run the real risk of wasting that if the Internet is seen as unreliable because people keep getting cut off, or because the Internet service companies have to charge a huge risk premium to cover their legal fees when they get sued because of this bad law.
Q: Do you think this had anything to do with Judith Tizard losing her seat?
A: Hard to say, isn’t it – certainly it’s a hearts and minds issue that has got a lot of people taking notice. A Canadian MP lost her seat under similar circumstances a few years ago as well. I’ll just recommend anyone who cares about this – and if you use the Internet, you care – to look at the Creative Freedom Foundation’s website – that’s a group set up by artists and musicians, the very people whose name this is being done under, and it’s full of people saying: I am a member of the copyright holder organisations that are pushing this law and I don’t want it. Email your MP and tell them how bad this is; look at the Creative Freedom Foundation’s website if you want more information.