Writings on technology and society from Wellington, New Zealand

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Cutting off your Internet if you are accused of infringement

Today on Radio New Zealand National I talked about a very bad piece of law that the government and the music business have foisted on us all, and about the fact that the government appears now to have cold feet about it. I’m referring to Section 92A of the Copyright Act, inserted by the recent copyright amendment, and it says that ISPs have to cut people off the Internet if a music company accuses them of copyright infringement. There’s no trial, no proof, and no accountability on the record companies to get it right. This provision was inserted into the Bill by the government after the Select Committee had told it to do the opposite and then passed by a large majority in the House.

The Minister of ICT announced yesterday that this provision will be put ‘on hold’ for four months. (It can be put on hold because it requires enabling regulation; effectively Cabinet can decide when and if it comes into force.) He’s looking for submissions on this. Don’t be shy – write to your MP, badger the parties who want your vote, and support InternetNZ which will be lobbying hard for MPs to do the Right Thing.

Read on for my speaking notes, or download the audio as ogg or mp3.

Q: So what are the problems with the Copyright Act?

A: I’m particularly worked up about that act. You may remember that, few months ago, the government pushed through, without any consultation, some harsh new copyright restrictions. I say without consultation, although its clear that someone was consulted because the minister, Judith Tizard, thanked the music industry lobbyists in the house when she pushed it through. Go figure.

Q: What’s so bad about the changes?

A: Lots of things, many bad things, but the one I’m focusing on here is the part of the Act which requires Internet service providers – ISPs like Xtra and Paradise – to disconnect people’s Internet if they are accused of downloading copyright material. That’s called Section 92A of the amended Copyright Act. This bizarre piece of law was pushed through, against advice from a wide range of industry bodies, by the same minister who later stood in front of a couple of hundred people and said that Internet was a basic human right. Now, if it’s a human right, you can’t deprive people of it. We don’t prevent people having access to food or clean water even if they are murderers, let alone copyright infringers.

All the ICT lobby groups have a done a press release on this. It’s the first time I’ve seen more than two of them put their names on a press release at once, and here we have five!

Q: What are they saying?

A: Their release fairly foams at the mouth, but you could summarise it in two words: unjust and unworkable. The DomPost picked this and ran a piece on Monday, which strangely hasn’t made it onto their website – and that repeats the Minister’s view that Internet’s a human right. Update: that article is now online. Thanks, guys.

Q: And what’s the music industry’s view of this?

A: They think that they should just be able to accuse someone and get their Internet cut off. That’s clear from their comments in the DomPost article. Campbell Smith, the CE of the New Zealand Recording Industry Association, was quoted as saying that it would be completely unacceptable for the law to require copyright holders so sue infringers to prove their guilt. He wants people cut off form the Internet as soon as one of the big music or movie companies accuses them.

Even if we thought that was acceptable – and I don’t for one minute – overseas, this industry has a record of suing the wrong person. They have sued dead people, people without computers, and people in the same house but who had nothing to do with it. Several high profile costs cases against them are going through legal process.

Q: Isn’t there any accountability on the music companies?

A: No, not that’s within the reach of the ordinary Internet user. The Copyright Act, when it was a bill, contained language that made the record companies liable if they couldn’t prove their case. That got taken out behind closed doors at the last minute and the whole thing passed in a hurry. And there’s the head of the music lobby in New Zealand in the papers, saying it wouldn’t be appropriate for them to have to prove their charges. Yet they want people’s Internet cut off on that basis. And the government has just rolled over on this, even though they think it’s a basic human right.

That change in the Act requires regulation to bring it in, and that hasn’t happened yet. But regulation could be introduced any day by this Cabinet or a later one, which deprives New Zealanders of a human right on the say so of some commercial interests who reject any notion of accountability.

Q: So this is a balance between people who want to get paid for their work and people who want freedom on the Internet

A: I am definitely not advocating the deliberate infringement of copyright. Artists should get paid for their work – if they want to be, that is. What I am against is the injustice of a few companies with a history of accusing the wrong people, getting to accuse Internet users and getting their access pulled.

Now, Section92A needs a regulation to make it active. That hasn’t happened yet and its clear that Cabinet has some disquiet about the whole thing or it would have happened by now. David Cunliffe, the Minister of IT, said the other night that there would be a four month “review period” before the regulation happens. In other words, we have four months to get organized and get this pernicious piece of legislation taken off the statute books, If we don’t do that, this government or another can turn it on, pretty much by fiat.


Minister: Internet is a basic human right

The DomPost article on cutting off people’s Internet for copyright infringement which quotes the head of the music lobby as saying that it would be totally unacceptable for them to have to prove their case in court.

NBR on the problems with the Copyright Act

posted by colin at 11:11 pm  


  1. […] [Via : Cutting off your Internet if you are accused of infringement.] […]

    Pingback by You could lose Internet access on a whim — Groupings — 26 September 2008 @ 8:47 am

  2. […] the most controversial change to the Copyright Act made was the insertion of section 92a, which says, in effect, that ISPs have to have a policy to implement cutting off people’s […]

    Pingback by » Ministers: why we changed the Copyright Act — 8 October 2008 @ 2:47 pm

  3. […] Cutting off your Internet if you are accused of infringement […]

    Pingback by Webstock does politics — 10 October 2008 @ 7:18 am

  4. I’d like to suggest that all those that have the ability, should crack the computers of those that voted for this and start downloading music. Then dob them into the music industry and get them cut off. See how they like it… It’s a bit of a knee-jerk reaction, and meant in jest.

    However, there is one thing that I can see that is mildly insane.

    This will be the end of the Wireless Hotspot in this country should it ever kick in.

    To the Govt: Good on ya. Stifle innovation. Ignore due process. Bow to your Corporate Overlords.


    Comment by Gold — 16 October 2008 @ 10:11 am

  5. I beleive an MP in the Beehive has downloaded an audio file.
    Please cut off all the Beehive internet access.
    Is that what is needed?

    Comment by Graham — 17 October 2008 @ 7:56 am

  6. I see copyright infringment all the time through my work, some of it linked to deliberate fraud attempts so I beleive some stronger legislation needs to be in place against copyright infringes and I would support that, including giving the ISPs a role in removing access.

    But it requires a better burden of proof than someone within the music industry pointing a finger.

    Comment by CanalRat — 4 November 2008 @ 12:36 am

  7. I appreciate the concern voiced about disconnection for infringement of copyright. I believe the law seems more than heavy handed.

    As I am a tutor at Senior Net, I am sure this issue will be raised in one of my classes.
    What will I answer to the question ” how do I distinguish between legal & illegal down loadS” ?

    Be interested to hear any comments.

    Comment by Peter — 8 January 2009 @ 7:19 pm

  8. Peter

    There is, of course, no simple answer, which is one of the reasons the law as put is so iniquitous.

    The best answer I could give your students would be to check the copyright statement of anything they are considering downloading. You could introduce the concept of Creative Commons, and say it’s legally risky to download anything else.

    Not a very satisfactory answer, I’m afraid, but it’s the best I can come up with.



    Comment by colin — 11 January 2009 @ 9:13 pm

  9. […] people have already written about why the changes are so bad. A protest is happening, both online by […]

    Pingback by S92a ranting « Thoughts of a geek — 18 February 2009 @ 11:18 pm

  10. What’s the next law in the pipeline? That police can impound your car if the petrol companys suspect you of speeding. No trial, no proof, and no accountability?

    Does this mean that all the university’s will loose internet access. I’m sure that will be great for progress.

    Comment by Dave — 19 February 2009 @ 7:37 am

  11. Christ, i’m embarrassed to be living in New Zealand right now. Yes, we are probably one of the luckiest countries in the world in many terms (beautiful country, on a global scale a safe place to live etc.) but my passion is music and I am a musician who produces his own music as well as an avid music fan, so i am ashamed that our government would do something of this scale. Its basically violating what we’re told is a basic human right…not to mention seemingly creating a new Law that effectively circumvents one of the very basic foundations of Law: innocent until proven guilty. It seems as if greedy music companys can point the finger, get us cut off and be above the law…if you’re reading this and have any common sense, we need to do all we can to stop this law being passed!

    Comment by Mike Lamb — 9 March 2009 @ 4:34 pm

  12. […] to Colin Jackon at, New Zealand’s section 92a of the copyright law “says that ISPs have to cut people off […]

    Pingback by Google Criticizes "Copyright Infringement" Takedown Procedures :Marketing Promotion Optimization — 20 March 2009 @ 4:03 am

  13. Nice thought!

    Comment by Lile — 13 April 2011 @ 9:15 am

  14. Filma me titra shqip
    filma me titra shqip

    Comment by Dacus — 7 September 2011 @ 8:45 am

  15. Thank you for this greate post!

    Comment by Elsbree — 3 October 2011 @ 5:19 am

  16. Hello!

    Thanks for the information!

    I bookmarked your site for future readings.



    Comment by Pedone — 16 October 2011 @ 2:06 am

  17. Hello, Hi, Hey, great article, post, blog, I, we love, like, loved, liked it !!!

    Comment by Bealer — 5 November 2011 @ 10:21 pm

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