Congratulations – you’re an internet pirate! What’s that you say? You’ve never plundered anything on the internet? You don’t which end of a cutlass to hold? Too bad. You’re an internet pirate anyway. At least, you are if a copyright owner accuses you.
So what’s going on here? The last Labour government introduced a copyright bill containing the infamous Section 92a. If a copyright holder accused someone of violating copyright (e.g. copying music files) their ISP could be required to cut off their internet access. In February 2009 there was a widespread “Blackout” protest. The Nats scrapped s92a and began work on a replacement (“The Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill”).
While an improvement in most respects, there is still significant opposition to the new Bill, which can still require net access to be cut off “by the minister by an order in council”. Even worse, there is still an assumption of guilt by accusation. The indefatigable I/S sums up:
The return of guilt by accusation
The government is abusing urgency again, this time to ram through the final stages of the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill. The bill repeals the (never implemented) section 92A regime, which provided for guilt by accusation, and replaces it with a new regime providing for… guilt by accusation. An SOP from the government softens the language here a bit, so that an infringement notice now merely creates a presumption of guilt rather than being conclusive evidence of it, but that’s not much better. it also makes little sense. As IP lawyer Rick Sherra points out, there’s no logical connection between the ability to fill out a form correctly, and the material in it actually being true.
The Bill of Rights Act affirms that everyone has the right to natural justice. This law would deny that, replacing it with a stacked system biased in favour of the accuser. And when overseas experience [PDF] has shown that a high proportion of infringement notices are issued in bad faith, by people with no claim to hold copyright or even by businesses targeting their rivals, such a system is actively dangerous, and a recipe for injustice.
Criticism has come from all sides of the political spectrum. Here’s part of DPF’s comment on the Bill when it was introduced last November:
Now for the bad one – they have recommended that an allegation from a rights holder will constitute burden of proof which must be rebutted. This is dangerous. Google has given evidence that around 30% of the notices they have received in the US are false or incorrect. I think the Copyright Tribunal should be left to its own devices to decide if an infringement notice from a rights holder meet burden of proof. Different rights holders may establish different levels of reliability. I hope the Government will consider amenemdents to this at committee of the whoel [sic] stage.
Labour’s original Bill on this was a pig. Now the Nats have stuck some lipstick on it and made it their own. But sure enough it’s still a pig. There are already calls to repeat the 2009 blackout protest. (For all you Twitter fans apparently “#blackout has started trending”.) I’d say the Nats are going to have a fight on their hands.
Update 2: Kurt Sharpe (for theblackout nz) put together this parody of National list MP Katrina Shanks’ speech on the Bill. More here. Ouch!