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Video Stores Claim S92A Law Will "Stop Child Porn"

Video stores caught claiming controversial law will "stop child porn."

By Josh Drummond
Originally Published - NEXUS MAGAZINE

Supporters of the controversial "guilt upon association" copyright law have been asking people to sign a petition in favour of the law, claiming it is about controlling child pornography.

Several United Video and other video rental stores in Hamilton are circulating a petition, asking that people agree to the statement "that ISPs (Internet Service Providers) should... [agree] to terminate the internet accounts of persistent infringers of copyright law."

But staff at the video stores have been telling customers that the petition is about stopping child pornography. Staff at United Video Dinsdale could be overheard last weekend telling customers that the petition was about stopping "illegal downloads online" and "especially kiddy porn." They were unclear about what the law being referred to actually was or what the petition addressed. When staff called upon the manager, Sue, to clarify the petition, she also said that the law was about stopping illegal downloads,

"Particularly child porn," she said.

The petitions had dozens of signatures at different video outlets throughout Hamilton.

Several video store employees approached Nexus, saying they were unhappy asking people to sign a petition they disagreed with. One said that management had been instructing all staff to ask customers to sign the petition, and bring up the matter of child pornography if they did not. "If a customer said they didn't want to sign, we were told to "sell it" on the idea that it was an anti-kiddy-porn law," the employee said. "We were told that the [stores promoting the petition] had a target set of 40, 000 signatures, and that underperforming stores would have to explain themselves [to head office.]" The employee said that the petition was also being circulated outside the stores. "I've also heard that people who don't work in the video stores have been paid to go and collect signatures independently."

He added that some staff were accusing people who refused to sign the petition of being pirates, or supporting piracy. The employee said that he knew something about the law and felt uncomfortable about persuading customers to sign the petition, but did not want to lose his job. "I'm not comfortable asking people to sign it, let alone telling them it's about child porn when it's not."

The organisation behind the "Blackout" protests, the Creative Freedom Foundation (CFF), said claiming s 92 A had anything to do with child pornography was "shameful and misleading."

"Section 92A has nothing whatsoever to do with the horrible crime of child pornography," said Bronwyn Holloway-Smith, the director of the CFF. "This can be verified by either reading the law or looking at the punishment that S92A calls for. S92A is very specific about the fact that it relates to copyright infringement and the punishment it calls for is internet disconnection. This punishment is far from appropriate for those distributing child pornography."

The General Manager of United Video, Lindsay Hall, said that he wasn't aware of stores peddling the child porn rumours. "I'm not aware of that," he said. "I don't know why they're saying that, if that is what they're saying. Our petition is about the protection of copyright in New Zealand." He added that he had sent out an email to United Video stores that morning "reminding people of what the petition is about, and I should hope that, especially from this morning, that is the message they are getting across - and I'll be very disappointed if they're not."

Similarly, the executive director of the New Zealand Federation Against Copyright Theft (NZ FACT,) Tony Eaton, said that the petition had nothing to do with child pornography. "No, that's totally wrong," Eaton said, adding that an email to that effect had been released and circulated amongst video stores carrying the petition.

The petition is in support of section 92 A of the Copyright Amendment Act, which was recently delayed by the National Government. The law calls for ISPs to cut off the internet service of copyright infringers, without recourse to the justice system. Opponents of the law have labeled it "guilt upon association" and say it is unfair and unworkable. A mass internet protest, spurred by the Creative Freedom Foundation, popular blogs, and even British TV star Stephen Fry, has been credited with having the Government delay the law for a month.


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