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.