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Labour: Termination clause to go within 90 days

Labour: ‘Termination clause’ to go within 90 days

Labour will introduce a Bill within 90 days of taking office to remove the so-called ‘termination clauses’ from the Copyright Act, says Labour’s Communications and IT spokesperson Clare Curran.

Clare Curran said the clauses --- which give the District Court the ability to impose account suspension as a remedy for infringing file sharing --- can’t work in the long term.

Announcing Labour’s policy on digital copyright today, Clare Curran said Labour will also undertake a review of the Copyright Act, with the aim of introducing a new Bill within 18 months to update and extend the framework for digital copyright in New Zealand.

“Termination is unsustainable,” Clare Curran said. “Labour voted for the Bill in April because we stuck by a commitment to work with the Government to enable Internet service providers and rights holders to reach a compromise on copyright law.

“That compromise meant that termination of Internet access as an ultimate penalty for repeat copyright infringement remained in the Bill, but could not be enacted without the consent of the Minister, but it is clear that this won’t work long-term.

“Labour remains committed to protecting the rights of the creators of works,” Clare Curran said. “This is a debate about shifting power, access to information, out-dated business models and the immense potential of the Internet to change our world. No parliament anywhere knows what to do about it yet, but Labour is committed to trying to find solutions.

“These solutions are, of course, bigger than simply tinkering with a single section of the Copyright Act,” Clare Curran said. “That’s why Labour will review the whole Act with a view to encouraging new business models to emerge which will distribute digital content easily and affordably.

“It’s a fundamental principle to ensure that the work of Kiwi creators is valued and that they can maintain control over their own works. The old business models --- by which the distribution of creative works was controlled by big companies --- have gone.

“Citizens everywhere are hungry for information and creative material via the digital environment. It is absolutely essential we get the balance right,” Clare Curran said.

Labour’s broader approach to copyright will be released as part of its ICT policy and its innovation policy, both due for release in coming weeks.

Authorised by Clare Curran, MP, Parliament Buildings, Wellington. Q&A: Digital Copyright for the 21st Century

Why does digital copyright need to be reformed?

New Zealand’s Copyright Act has been half-heartedly adapted for the Internet age. Instead of more piece-meal reforms, we need to transform our digital intellectual property framework, to bring it into the 21st century and to promote innovation and growth in our economy.

What will Labour do about our out-of-date copyright laws?

Labour is committed to a review of the Copyright Act, with the aim of introducing a bill within 18 months of taking office that updates and extends the framework for digital copyright in New Zealand. In the interim, we will repeal within 90 days the provisions of the current Copyright Act (Sections 122P-122R) that allow for the suspension of Internet accounts as a punishment for illegal file sharing.

Will Labour ensure there are legal ways to access music and films online?

Labour will actively encourage new business models that will allow content to be distributed online in an affordable and accessible way. We will investigate a funding mechanism to ensure the development of a digital platform for accessing Kiwi content. Funds raised could go to content creators through an arms-lengths collecting and distribution arrangement.

Does Labour support the $15,000 fines that can be imposed by the Copyright Tribunal?

We remain concerned about the potential impact of some aspects of the new file sharing regime, and that is why we are committed to a full review of the Act. We will monitor the enforcement of the new laws, including any fines that are handed down.

Is Labour concerned about account holders being held liable for other users who infringe copyright laws on their connections?

Under National’s file sharing regime, an account holder can be held liable for the infringements of a user, even where the account holder was unaware of the infringements. This could happen at workplaces, schools, libraries and other places where wi-fi access is provided to a number of users. National hasn’t made it clear how this will be dealt with. Labour will closely monitor this problematic aspect of the regime.

Why did the last Labour Government allow for the termination of Internet accounts?

The last Labour Government tried to address the growing problem of Internet piracy by requiring Internet service providers to police illegal downloading and to have a policy for terminating the accounts of repeat offenders.

We acknowledge the commitment of the last Labour Government to ensuring that the work of New Zealand artists was valued, allowing them to maintain control over their own works. This is a fundamental principle.

But the digital environment has changed our world. The old business model – where big companies had control over the distribution of creative works – doesn’t apply anymore. Governments have to recognise that their citizens are hungry for information and creative material via the Internet.

We’ve learned from our experience in originally passing Section 92A. Labour no longer believes that termination is appropriate as a remedy for infringing filesharing. Many parliaments around the world are grappling with these issues right now and none have got it right yet. The solutions are bigger than a re-write of one section of the current Copyright Act.

If you’re opposed to the termination of Internet accounts, why did Labour vote for the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Act?

We supported the bill because we reached a compromise with the Government where, although termination remained in the bill, it would not be enacted unless a special Order-in-Council is made. The bill was better for this compromise. However, we are totally committed to repealing this aspect of the legislation if we win the election.

What will Labour do about Section 122MA of the Copyright Act, which places the burden on an account holder to prove they did not infringe a copyright?

At Labour’s request, the government agreed to amend this clause of the bill, to ensure that once a notice was received and where the Copyright Tribunal process was triggered, the account holder can challenge the notice. Once a challenge has been made, the onus is placed on the right holder to prove an infringement has occurred. This aspect of the law will form part of Labour’s review of copyright.

What impact does illegal file sharing have on creative industries?

The impact of illegal file sharing is very difficult to quantify – and the Ministry of Economic Development admitted as much in its assessment of the National Government’s law. In light of that uncertainty, we don’t believe it’s necessary to suspend infringer’s Internet accounts.

Does Labour’s digital copyright policy meet our international obligations?

Labour is committed to meeting its international obligations under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (or “TRIPS”). However, in the future we will find new ways of negotiating trade agreements which recognise new industries and opportunities arising from new technologies.

Does Labour believe internet access is a right? Internet access is not just a utility or essential service but also enables the provision of social and family connections across distances and time zones, education and work opportunities. Therefore all New Zealanders should have the ability to access the Internet and Labour will work to ensure they do.

Labour affirms that the fundamental human right to impart and receive information and opinion necessarily includes the ability to access the Internet in order to give practical effect to the right in today’s world.

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