Writings on technology and society from Wellington, New Zealand

Thursday, March 12, 2009

RIANZ: Your Internet connection belongs to us

Campbell Smith of the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand, a body that represents some copyright holders in New Zealand, has written a column in the Herald saying that requiring people’s Internet providers to cut them off if they are accused of copyright infringement is a reasonable way to protect artists’ rights.

Overseas organizations like RIANZ have taken to suing people who they think are distributing music online against copyright. Smith acknowledges that hasn’t gone too well. The RIAA (RIANZ’s equivalent in the US) has been making an embarrassment of itself suing the wrong people, and now is in bad odour with the artists and the public.

Smith’s solution to the problem that his industry can’t identify who is violating their copyrights is to make it someone else do the dirty work so his organization doesn’t end up looking as bad as the RIAA. That’s what Section 92A of the Copyright Act is all about. Smith wants to be able to tell your Internet provider that you are infringing copyright, and for the Internet provider to have to cut you off on pain of being sued by RIANZ. No messy court cases.

Of course, the teensy flaw in this plan – as Blackadder would put it – is that the wrong people still get targeted, but under S92A they get disconnected with no right of appeal. Ordinary Internet users are at risk. Fair? I think not.

Matthew Holloway of the Creative Freedom Foundation has done a great piece in the Herald exposing all this. As Holloway points out, his organization represents more artists than Smith’s and they are very definitely opposed to this unfair law.

So, it would seem, is TelstraClear. They have walked away from the code of practice that the now-suspended law required them to have, and that they were negotiating with RIANZ under the gun. I expect the other Internet providers in that conversation will walk away as well.

You don’t have to think that all copyright is wrong to reject this appalling law. Yes, we need a way to ensure that artists get paid for their work. Yes, the Internet changes things. And yes, our copyright is profoundly out of step with technology. Let’s have a debate about how we go about fixing it. Let’s not ram through law to unfairly advantage a few at the cost of many.

The next step here is to get S92A repealed altogether. Then to start a wider conversation involving artists and Internet folk – some of whom are the same people – to work out how copyright should work in the Internet age. It would be truly wonderful if the government would facilitate that.

posted by colin at 11:22 am  


  1. RIANZ, APRA et al are utterly wrong in how they spend their energy. The music industry model has collapsed, not from digital file sharing, but because the people in charge of setting a course for the future in the record companies thought the future would look like the past. It doesn’t and neither does he present. New approaches are needed to promote the enjoyment of music and for the people who make the music to profit from it if they wish. The music business has always been about controlling distribution – not the promotion of the musicians (their abuse of musicians and their rights is well documented). Ultimately the power shifts from the gatekeepers and the ticket clippers back to the fans and the artists – as it should be.

    The poster boy for the way forward is Trent Rezner, the musician and marketing genius behind Nine Inch Nails. The music industry hate Reznor because he proves just how redundant they are.

    Will it be the swan song of the Music Industry – probably not. Should it be? Probably. Greedy people always find new ways to take more than they are worth.

    Comment by David MacGregor — 12 March 2009 @ 1:18 pm

  2. Maike Masnick did a very nice presentation for midem about the Reznor model.

    Comment by Mark Harris — 17 March 2009 @ 12:09 pm

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