Writings on technology and society from Wellington, New Zealand

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Think of the children

If there’s anyone left who didn’t know, Parliament passed a Copyright Amendment Act last night under urgency. It has the effect of curtailing the rights of ordinary New Zealanders for the gain of overseas companies.

Yes, there needs to be balance between rights holders and ordinary Internet users. Yadda yadda yadda, we’ve been through the arguments so many times before. This Bill, now an Act, was hugely skewed towards the companies that sit between us and creative artists – check out InternetNZ’s Vikram Kumar or tech journalist Juha Saarinen for more detail.

But that’s not what has really, really annoyed me as well as just about every NZer under 30.
What has really got me going here is the total disregard, no, let’s call it what it is, contempt for the rights of ordinary New Zealanders. Voters, you know? Perhaps parliamentarians don’t think people a generation down from them deserve to have their rights considered. Certainly, the members debating it (and, let’s be clear, any high school debate would have left that so-called debate in the dust) displayed *no* understanding of the issue. Check out National’s Melissa Lee, who weighed in against file sharing the day after she used Twitter to thank a friend for copying music for her. Or Katrina Shanks, who wants to be my local MP but is so far up the National list that she obviously doesn’t have to worry about her seat. Or the National MP who described the Internet as Skynet, the evil enemy in the Terminator films. Perhaps he knows something we don’t, but watching him in action I doubt it. Only Gareth Hughes of the Greens even seemed to understand what the debate was about.

This whole thing was rammed through under the emergency provisions being used for Christchurch Earthquake recovery. That’s right, your rights were being given away to multinational companies in the name of the biggest natural disaster in New Zealand in living memory. If that’s not cynical, I don’t know what is.

But it’s not just National who voted for this thing. According to Radio New Zealand, only the Greens and two independent MPs voted against it. Labour said that it had done a deal with National to reduce the worst parts of the previous Copyright Bill – and it had – but it has still voted for something that disenfranchises the majority of its voters. Peter Dunne who opposed the previous law voted for this one. Shame on you, Peter! Maori Party – what are you going to tell your people when they get their Internet cut off? ACT – well, ACT even voted against the anti-spam act so their position is no surprise. Jim Anderton – the ordinary people of Christchurch will be ashamed of you.

Ultimately, this kind of behaviour can only lead to disillusionment with the political system. I’m proud of the open system we have in New Zealand, but abuses like this one shake my faith in it. Perhaps we are no better than other countries where policies seem to be bought by well-heeled lobbyists. Faced with choices like this, why should the next generation of potential voters even bother?

I hope the generation below me – the people who have been contacting me in droves for the last few days, unable to believe that their Parliament could do anything so contemptible – will remain engaged and vote them out. That’s what elections are for.

posted by colin at 11:09 pm  


  1. Yea, well as a 46 year-old this makes my blood boil.

    I think we’re due some revenge – I think we need to specifically find out who is/was behind this bill – both in substance and execution, and expose them to the wrath/scrutiny of the internet.

    The flipside of course is to identify people who actually understand what’s going on, and who actually represent us… rather than corporate lobbyists, and throw our weight behind them. Last night it was The Green Party and David Parker.

    I’m not done with this.

    Comment by Nick Taylor — 15 April 2011 @ 12:09 am

  2. I am way over 30 and I am getting more disillusioned every day. It’s not the MPs that need voting out, it’s the system that has gone wonky. Maybe we should create a shadow government that shows what a system that informs and then listens to the people really looks like

    Comment by Trevor — 15 April 2011 @ 6:45 am

  3. Agreed on the age thing in comments above, remove the under 30 bullocks, i think its at least everyone under 50 or even over who’s vaguely IT savvy (except perhaps MPs?)

    Comment by Liz Quilty — 15 April 2011 @ 8:47 am

  4. I don’t think the under 30 thing is bollocks – National does seem to be over-supplied with people who resemble conservative Auckland housewives who think the internet is some sort of teenage fad… that they should be frightened of.

    And Nick Smith’s patronising dismissal of the Green Party guy for being “irresponsible” looked to me to be pretty age-based as well. There was a definite vibe coming through of this being a “them” problem… “them” being teenagers.

    Come to that – what is the point of Nick Smith? As far as I could see, his main goal was to try to derail any intelligent conversation. He wasn’t drunk was he? Surely not. I find that hard to believe. Anyway – whatever he was doing was not the process by which you create good policy. He’s got to go.

    Another part of this that really made my blood boil was the meek (or just cock-eyed) acceptance by all there that the “solution” (trust me, there isn’t a problem) is “education”… or in other words, the taxpayer is now going to fund corporate propaganda.

    The marriage of Corporation and State eh? Nice one.

    Comment by Nick Taylor — 15 April 2011 @ 10:46 am

  5. As appalling and cynical as this is – lets not forget where it began and that where it began was even worse. No excuses but one of our continuing political failures is is our inability to remember. Of course Labour voted for it it was its idea in the first place.

    Comment by Hamish Keith — 15 April 2011 @ 11:54 am

  6. The pressure behind this is a perceived “need” to harmonise policies with the US in order to lay down the base legal context for some future, hoped for Free Trade Agreement with the United States. This is why The NZ Dairy Board was converted into Fonterra. This is why we are being pressured constantly to adopt US laws set out in US terms. Labour and National are equally guilty of failing to put New Zealand first. Worse, they are guilty of being doormats in any real negotiations on trade matters. NZ has precious little in reserve to bargain with having dropped our pants a couple of decades and provided access to our markets we can’t even beg to get from those who have benefited from it here.

    The bottom line is any FTA you have to beg to get isn’t worth having. But neither Labour nor National appear to understand that and instead they are together incrementally trading away our sovereignty and trampling on our legal and constitutional traditions in return for…let’s be honest…nothing at all.

    The US wants us to adopt their “Mickey Mouse” copyright laws: life plus 95 years for an author or 120 years for a corporation. My view is we have already allowed more than enough theft from the public domain. Time to draw a line under it.

    The Greens appear to have the right idea on this…as on so many other things, to be honest.

    Comment by Steve Withers — 15 April 2011 @ 12:54 pm

  7. Psst: Only the Greens and ONE MP voted against it. Hone Harawira has given his vote to the Greens on his behalf on all bills while he was at a kapa haka tournament. So his views on the issue aren’t known.

    Comment by Naly_D — 15 April 2011 @ 1:09 pm


    Practically any Internet user can be framed for copyright infringement today.

    Comment by Anon — 16 April 2011 @ 10:59 am

  9. Well we need to draw up a hitlist of politicians who act in the interests of corporations rather than their electorates… and hit them.

    Melissa Lee as already confessed. Wat do we need to do to see her prosecuted?

    Comment by Nick Taylor — 16 April 2011 @ 11:11 am

  10. “Wat do we need to do to see her prosecuted?”

    Only the copyright holder (or their representative) can act so we’d need to know a tracklist (which she hasn’t revealed) or we’d need to contact major Korean copyright organisations to dob her in.

    Comment by Matthew Holloway — 16 April 2011 @ 1:46 pm

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