The New Zealand Internet Blackout protests against the Guilt Upon Accusation law ‘Section 92A‘ that calls for internet disconnection based on accusations of copyright infringement without a trial and without any evidence held up to court scrutiny. This is due to come into effect on February 28th unless immediate action is taken by the National Party.
Why Should I Care?
Businesses / Organisations
You’re now an ISP This law changes the definition of an ISP to be practically anyone with a shared connection or website. ISPs now include businesses, schools, libraries, government departments and any organisation that provides internet services. Odds are, you’re an ISP.
Business compliance costs: Under S92A it’s a practical necessity to log all connections in order to be able to corroborate any future accusations, especially for tracking employees because internet disconnection (like phone disconnection) may effectively mean firing someone along with the risks of a false dissmissal. Section 92A gives no guidance here, and it practically expects your organisation to know both data forensics and copyright law.
NZ Risk: Other countries don’t have this “draconian” law (to quote John Key) so organisations may prefer offshore IT companies as they don’t have to operate under these conditions.
Harms artists and harms respect for copyright: We do not condone copyright infringement or anything that takes money away fellow artists, but it’s also true that poorly designed copyright laws can cause public disrespect for copyright and other artistic rights.
Thousands of artists have contacted us to speak directly against Section 92A as it asks for punishment before a trial and before evidence has been held up to court scrutiny. The widespread public understanding of S92A is already is causing a public disrespect for copyright because this law infringes on public rights. We need copyright to work but S92A is doing more harm than good. As APRA member Anthony Milas put it “if anything the public backlash sure to result from [Section 92A] will make it even more difficult to educate the public and convince lawmakers of the necessity of sensible laws to protect creators rights.”
Although perhaps noble in it’s intent this law is corrosive to the public trust in copyright education that the artists benefit from, and it risks undoing the social contract that underlies copyright; encouraging illegal downloads and taking money away from the creative sector.
Connect with the world: NZ Artists are using the internet to connect with the world – to distribute their work and connect with new audiences. NZ is geographically isolated and internet is increasingly becoming the primary way we engage with the rest of the world. With this law, artist – as well as everyone else – could be face being wrongly disconnected from the internet and for artists who rely on the internet, to organise for example tours or exhibitions, that could be difference securing an opportunity and losing it.
Better Alternatives There are alternatives to S92A other than new business models. The issue that some artists and large industry groups feel that the courts are beyond them (or “impractical and ridiculous” in the words of RIANZ) is obviously a problem for justice in New Zealand. If courts aren’t adequate – then what has often be suggested is a specialised Copyright Court.
Reverses the presumption of innocence: Section 92A calls for punishment with internet disconnection before a trial and before any evidence has been held up to court scrutiny.
Censorship: While the target of Section 92A was probably illegal downloads of music and movies it infact covers all copyrighted material including quotes and other parts of social commentary. Associated Press (AP) say that 5 word quotes must be licensed for (US)$12.50. Groups such as the Church of Scientology have issued 4000 notices to YouTube videos, some of which were protest videos. Section 92A widens the definition of an ISP to include practically any shared internet connection, and asks thousands of untrained people to assess claims of copyright infringement and data forensics. With such a poorly designed justice system individuals should expect misuse.
What can I do?
You can write a letter to the ministers involved TODAY — this is important so keep it polite and respectful, but firm — it’s more persuasive that way. Of course this should be in your own words and it doesn’t need to be a long letter. You could mention the number of people that you speak for and their interests, whether you condone copyright infringement that takes money away from artists, whether you think Section 92A is appropriate for New Zealand, and perhaps examples of alternatives such as a Copyright Court or new business models (example letters here). Email these people TODAY:
- firstname.lastname@example.org (Simon Power)
- email@example.com (Chris Finlayson)
- firstname.lastname@example.org (Steven Joyce)
Also sign the petition if you haven’t already.
To join todays blackout you can either
- modify your website and replace the homepage with this one
- otherwise use this banner:
- Stephen Fry
- Many, many more here
The Wellington demonstration was a massive success attended by 200 people with blacked out placards, read about it here.
Join thousands of New Zealanders already against this law by blacking out your Facebook photo, your websites, your Myspace pages, your Twitter account, in protest against this unjust new law that may come into effect on February 28.
(your name) is blacked out: Stand up against “Guilt Upon Accusation” for New Zealand http://creativefreedom.org.nz/blackout.html