Colin Jackson has written about the imminent threat to New Zealand’s Internet services, by accusations of breach of copyright, of all things.
Note that word accusations.
S92A of the Copyright Act, not quite, but almost written into our law, will force ISPs to pull the plug on people accused of infringing copyright.
Of course, those nice people who run the music and movie industries would never falsely accuse people, so it’s not like there should be a trial or anything to prove that someone has broken the law …
Colin’s whole post is a must-read, but here are a few points that provide a summary:
… the government is apparently trying to kill the Internet in New Zealand off altogether. That’s right – S92A of the Copyright Act, which ministers have just told us to “like or lump” risks chilling new services on the Internet so they never get started, and driving the companies that distribute Internet out of existence. …
… The thing that’s got me really worked up, though, is the provision in the act that says that Internet Service Providers have to cut off your Internet access if you are accused — that’s accused, not convicted — of unlawfully infringing someone’s copyright. And a group of us met Ministers last week to talk about out concerns. I have to say that we were given short shrift.
… Natural justice — there is no justice at all in losing your Internet connection on the basis of an accusation. We put that the to the Minister, Judith Tizard at a meeting this week and she told us that the music and movie companies had assured her that they wouldn’t falsely accuse people.
… One of our number asked what if, say, Middlemore Hospital had three overseas doctors who didn’t understand New Zealand law and were accused by a music company of having downloaded copyright material — would the hospital’s Internet connection be shut down? The Minister yes, it would, and more fool the hospital for allowing it. Yes, that’s shutting down a hospital for an accusation of something that’s not even a crime.
Way to go, Judith Tizard! Let’s shut down a crucial part of the infrastructure in hospital or other essential services because some record company flunky feels like accusing a computer on the network of downloading music in breach of copyright.
Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty? What about our right to a fair trial?
I can understand a copyright holder’s frustration with repeated infringement on their rights, but S92A of the Copyright Act goes way beyond what could be acceptable in law. Accusation is one thing; proof quite another.
And in any case, pulling the plug is not an acceptable penalty for proven copyright infringement, any more than cutting off supplies of food or water for someone found guilty of stealing from a supermarket.
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