Section 92a of the Copyright Act requires New Zealand ISPs to cut off Internet access for those accused of copyright breaches. Not those found guilty after due process of law, but after accusations by those who believe their copyright has been breached.
This iniquitous piece of legislation subverts our justice system and enables vigilante action on the part of those organisations who claim they are suffering financial losses from breaches of copyright. NZCI (a coalition of organisations calling itself New Zealand Creative Industries):
… says the issue [of online piracy], which has generated a virtually united front of opposition from ISPs, and ICT industry groups, is not about ISPs policing the internet, it’s about ISPs “responding to a high standard of evidence of infringement and illegal activity on their networks supplied by rights holders”.
Let’s be clear about this:
- Copyright holders believe person X has illegally downloaded copyrighted files.
- Copyright holders approach the ISP of person X.
- The ISP is required by law to cut off person X’s Internet access.
If any judgement is involved it’s on the part of the ISP who must determine whether or not to disconnect person X.
That kind of approach is vigilante action. It’s just that vigilantes traditionally act outside the law, rather than being enabled by it.
Section 92a subverts our justice system. I’m no lawyer, but as I understand it, our legal system usually runs like this:
- Person X is accused of a crime.
- Evidence is presented to a duly constituted court, following rules set out in the justice system to ensure fairness.
- If Person X is found guilty then they are punished according to the framework set out in law, with penalties decided by a judge.
I’m sure copyright holders are miffed that people appear to be violating their copyright. I’m a copyright holder and don’t like people violating my copyright.
I believe artists and authors and other creators should be fairly recompensed for their work. I am not advocating piracy.
I do believe that this piece of legislation is iniquitous. I don’t care if the organisations represented by NZCI are losing dozens of dollars or millions of dollars because of piracy. the point is that if they are suffering losses by theft then they need to take their proof to a court of law, and that court will decide on appropriate penalties for the guilty.
It is entirely inappropriate that ISPs should be required to take such drastic action as cutting off someone’s Internet access based only on accusations by aggrieved parties. This piece of law should never have been passed in the first place and should be totally repealed before it comes into effect at the end of February 2009.
Finally: a warning to all New Zealanders. If this law does come into force you’d better make darn sure that you know about every single packet passing through your Internet connection. Don’t leave your computer unattended with children or visitors in the house or business; don’t share your Internet connection with anyone; monitor your computer for viruses and malware that may be sending unknown traffic through your system.
You may be disconnected, and since no court of law was involved before this penalty was applied what hope will there be of seeking redress through law?
If you’re disconnected, who will you turn to? Where can you seek ‘your day in court’?
It’s at times like this I believe New Zealand should have a Constitution. I’d lay good odds that this piece of legislation would breach any Constitution of any democratic country.