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Copyright issue: Select Committee got it right

Copyright issue: Select Committee got it right, says ISPANZ

For Immediate Release

21 January 2009

Section 92A must be stopped

The Internet Service Providers Association (ISPANZ) respectfully requests that the Government not bring into force Section 92A of the Copyright Act on February 28. Section 92A is poorly constructed law designed to force ISPs to cut off the Internet access of those accused of repeat infringement of Copyright.

ISPANZ notes that the Select Committee considering the original Bill, which was chaired by Hon Gerry Brownlee, rejected this approach, but the previous Government reinserted the clauses in a last minute action, making New Zealand a guinea pig for experimental cyberlaw.

ISPANZ President Jamie Baddeley says the Select Committee got it right and the new Government still has a chance to take corrective action.

“If Section 92A is allowed to come in, ISPs will have to disconnect organisations such as businesses, public libraries, government agencies etc as a result of accusations that an employee has used their computers for illegal downloading. The customer may be innocent, there may be an error, or the downloading may well have been done by a virus. Everyday Kiwis with a computer that has been inadvertently hacked may have their Internet access terminated.

"This law needs to go back to the drawing board, with Government re-examining the issue and finding a better path forward. ISPANZ would be happy to work with Government agencies and rightsholders to explore better options in the same open and progressive manner in which it has approached the Teleconmmunications Carriers Forum Copyright Working Party,” says Baddeley.

ISPANZ notes with concern rightsholders’ claim that 60-80 percent of all Internet traffic is peer-to-peer sharing of copyright infringing files. What needs to be recognised here is that unless rightsholders can 100% guarantee that accusation equals guilt then businesses (who produce little or no peer-to-peer traffic) are at risk of being taken down through a wrongful accusation. ISPANZ believes the rightsholders need to qualify their claims about businesses and their use of the Internet.

Damned if we do

Baddeley says ISPs are being placed in a terrible position

“Under Section 92A We’ll be damned if we do and damned if we don't. We'll be faced with dealing with an accusation, not proven, of a copyright infringement and making a very difficult judgment call. If we decide in favour of our customers, we risk being sued by global media powerhouses. If we decide in favour of the rightsholder and disconnect a customer from the Internet, we risk being sued by customers for breach of contract. Disconnecting customers goes against everything we do."

Baddeley notes support on this issue from every major ICT group in the country, including the Telecommunication Carriers’ Forum, The NZ Computer Society, The Telecommunications Users Association of New Zealand, InternetNZ, and others. Other groups, including a group of artists, have also come out against Section 92A.

Anti social and economic development

Baddeley says draconian laws to disconnect Internet access also go against what New Zealand has been doing in respect to broadband, social connectivity, and economic development.

"Over the last decade or more we've seen excellent progress in connecting the average person with their friends, family and business associates around the world in a way that is better than before. And businesses have had major increases in productivity by having more accessible ICT tools.”

A lot of the progress made towards a level, more competitive playing field in the telecommunications market is also in danger of being undermined.

"The worrying thing, as we've seen in Australia, is that it’s not the ISPs that carry the bulk of the market that are targeted by copyright holders. It is smaller, more innovative ISPs, who are ill equipped to deal with a major legal battle. It is those innovators that ISPANZ largely comprises of - ISPs who make real progress for their customers. If the smaller ISPs go out of business due to Section 92a, that undoes progress made from a policy perspective."

ISPs are pro-copyright

ISPANZ recognises the benefits of copyright. Many of its members’ customers rely on copyright for their livelihoods. However, ISPANZ has serious concerns whether Section 92a can play a part in protecting it.

"On the one hand we're being asked to enable an economy through global networking and ICT efficiency, and on the other hand we're being asked to stop that connectivity by accusation alone, in order to try to solve another industry’s problem with how they make money off their Copyright franchises.”


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