Implications of the Copyright Amendment Act 2011

This law set out to amend the Copyright Act of 1994, this is called the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Act 2011. It will come into effect today 1st September 2011.

The basic idea behind the law is that if a copyright company suspects an IP address of partaking in uploading or downloading copyright material, they ask an isp to link an ip address to an account holder. This person is then held responsible for all alleged illegal file sharing from that IP, not the actual downloader. From here the account holder must prove their innocence, and this in its self is a violation to one of the most basic democratic right, innocent until proven guilty. Once an account holder has been given 2 warnings, they may be fined up to $15,000 and have their internet shut off. This brings me the next point I feel is a huge contradiction. The United Nations have recently released a report in which UN Special Rapporteur Frank La Rue highlights the fact that the internet has become a very important tool in enabling human rights, thus a restriction of the internet is a restriction of someone’s right to freedom of expression.

Many companies offer services such as free internet for customers, this new law will threaten these free services as the companies are held responsible. This law will not hold the downloader as the crim but the person who provides the internet to them. This will mean many of these companies such as cafes, schools, hotels may need to shut down these free services. Unitech have been quoted that they may be forced to pull all internet access from their campus if they are held responsible for other uses actions. This was highlighted by Gareth Hughes on the 11th of August when he question the speaker and Minister of Commerce about what would happen if Parliament were accused of file sharing. No answer was given. I feel that this is a tell tale sign of parliament not understanding the underling workings of the internet, and being ignorant of the implications.

I feel that this is because the law was foreced through parliament, in a time when the people’s eyes were averted to national and international disasters. I think we all feel that this was the wrong time to do such a thing and was ill-conceived and ill thought out decision. During the horrific chch earthquakes parliament decided to push though this law, in order to get to the Canterbury earthquake legislation. The passing of the law was under pressure from America Government as they had been lobbied by copyright holders such as The International Registry of Artists and Artwork, and Motion Picture Association of America. As these will be the main two companies that will benefit from this law passing, with a perceived increase of sales revenue and enforcing their image of the good guys. Our government did not understand the far reaching ramifications many of which are still to surface. This can be seen in the poor legislation.

A law very similar to this law was passed in France in 2009, where accused are guilty until proven innocent, this law was also dubbed HADOPI, its a French acronym. 2 warnings and a fine, internet suspension will follow. Most of these points I have brought up have also been the main down fall for the French law. The funny thing is that the first person that was prosecuted under this law was found not guilty after an appeal. This highlights the inaccuracies and inconsistencies and undemocratic nature of these laws.

If piracy runs in your blood, this law is not aimed at you. Veteran Pirates have been hardened by the lack of product in New Zealand; we need to wait for an extended period of time before any product is available in New Zealand, if available at all. Many Pirates have had enough of the high prices of media in New Zealand. This has forced many people with the know how to source media elsewhere, thus informing people around them how to follow. People who have been involved in Piracy will always find new ways to circumvent any laws, to obtain the legal or illegal product they desire. Thus the people who will be targeted are the casual uses or the innocent. Inexperienced users will be the majority on the receiving end of this law.

So all in all we have legislation that has not only proven to be ineffective, but will also target the innocent. Our government was under pressure from the American government to amend our law, as they want to appease the companies who feel they have been cheated out of money, while stealing from the artists. The underlying punishment of this new law is a complete abuse of our historical democratic rights. The implementation of this law and the outcome of such by the courts is still an unknown quantity.
-Alex M.


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