The pitfalls of copyright amendment legislation

Intellectual property; who owns it? There was a time in which we had access to free downloadable music, books, and movies. That time is gone. With the new copyright infringement law coming into affect on the 1st of September, we will no longer have legal access to these. I believe that this is not only a removal of free information but a removal of our rights and a grab at what little money we have by greedy corporations.

Corporate interests have increasingly been attempting to completely subvert, as with the U.S internet 2.0 initiative, or control the freedom of expression online. In February Burger King attempted to unjustly fire an employee for posting her personal opinion. Corporations have traditionally controlled information through geography and the medium information is stored on. The internet heralded the arrival of uncensored, free flowing information. The Copyright infringement law is an extension of this corporate action to control not only content but opinion and thought.

The new law is disadvantageous to everyone who has an internet connection. According to the new law, any complaint of copyright infringement means, you are guilty unless proven innocent and you yourself must prove yourself innocent, in which you will need money, time and the knowledge of how to fight it. On top of that, the accuser does not have to have any proof that you have downloaded their product illegally. There is also no penalty for those of who accuse and get proven wrong. Nor any limit to who they may accuse or the number of accusations they may make against individuals, groups or society as a whole.

Punishment for downloading music, movies and books takes away our human rights, rights that have even been acknowledged by the bureaucratic behemoth of the United Nations, jeopardises and sets a disturbing precedent for our legal system. It also counts towards the three strikes policy of which jail time is handed out if convicted 3 times of any crime. Alleged breaches by people totally ignorant, naive or incapable of legal concepts, such as children, could end in a conviction for their parents. This is a complete attack on many principles which underpin not only society but accepted morality. The abusers and beneficiaries of this bill will not be struggling New Zealand artists, but Multinational corporations bludgeoning Kiwis into their ideal of copyright compliance.

The new copyright laws will also jeopardise our free use of computers and internet at schools as the account holder will be held responsible for any claimed breach. Thus whole educational institutions, spheres of government, companies or political organisations may have internet disconnected for real or imagined infractions caused by a complex multitude of users, disadvantaging the poor who cannot afford internet at home and attacking our rights to a free, fair and equitable education. Already Auckland’s UNITEC has advised they may no longer be able to supply the use of their free internet due to the danger of a law suit/ being fined.

Legally the onus is placed firmly on the defendant, creating a disturbing parody of the natural justice we are entitled to receive. There is no need for the plaintiff to provide any proof of a breach on the part of the alleged defendant. Guilt is wholly assumed, the plaintiff need not even prove that they legally hold the copyright. This may clearly result in blatant abuse of the law, used to suppress political rivals or attack the communications of NGO’s. Overseas experience has also shown that “legal teams” are created responsible for disseminating threatening emails. Demanding settlement of alleged breaches through payment or lopsided legal action will pursue. This boils down to government endorsed extortion rackets to line corporate pockets.

Indeed New Zealanders have been wholly misled as to the source and implications of this bill. There has been, through Wikileaks, leaked diplomatic releases, a clear attempt by the American government to bribe and pressure the New Zealand government while marginalising the voice of New Zealand citizens, its own constituency! The law was rushed through under emergency provisions for the Christchurch earthquake which has shown a blatant abuse of power by a government that knew it was passing vastly unpopular legislation. Most politicians didn’t even know what they were voting for as seen by the slip up made by Melissa Lee.

The question must be asked what action can be taken, how can such a repugnant attack on society be repulsed? The answer is clearly not to be found in parliament the New Zealand government has folded, thrown up its arms and declared, what is to be done! Their hand must be forced, and so it falls to us, the masses of the people to give them the motivation to resist. To show that such erosive legislation is intolerable, that our fight, our drive for freedom and equality is not spent at the ballot box, but fills our lives and our streets.

To this end, a protest has been organised on the 27th August 12-3pm in Aotea square. This is our chance to show we won’t stand for such a predatory law.

Sharing should be free. Stand with us to fight for it.

Further Reading;

David and Jennifer Josling, SA Auckland


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