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NZ Linux Community reject copyright law

New Zealand Linux Industry and Community reject guilt on accusation copyright laws Press release by LinuxChix NZ, Waikato Linux Users' Group and Wellington Linux Users' Group 11-March-2009

A new threat has emerged against Linux and other Open Source Software: New Zealand's new, ill-conceived copyright laws that pave the way for users to be disconnected on accusation of copyright infringement.

Copyright threats against Linux are nothing new. In 2003 The SCO Group, a commercial entity from the USA, falsely claimed copyright on parts of the Linux operating system. It took a long time, over four years for these claims to be declared as false by the courts and thrown out. Even though SCO Group's copyright claims were found baseless, the drawn-out legal process was prohibitively expensive and held the potential to severely damage the future of Linux.

Many New Zealand businesses and community groups fear the threat of false copyright accusations against Linux could result in internet disconnection and website takedowns without due process. There is no requirement under the new law to prove the accusations, nor are there any sanctions against those who make false ones.

Already, the country's third largest ISP, TelstraClear, has stated it will take down sites accused of hosting copyright infringing material without investigation or verification of the claims.

Failure to act promptly could costs ISPs dearly. The NZ Ministry of Economic Development has advised that: "The ISP is required to consider the notice of infringement and as soon as possible after receiving the notice either delete the allegedly infringing material or prevent access to it. If the ISP fails to take prompt action after receiving the notice, it could be liable for copyright infringement even if it was not directly responsible for the posting of the infringing material on the website."

This is the "guilt upon accusation" principle that is now being ensconced in law - it is unfair, unreasonable and goes against the grain of centuries of legal practice.

Current negotiations between Telecommunications Forum and a small group of media rights holders addresses only section 92A, and seeks to create code of practise that is voluntary. This code does not have the power to override the law. There seems to be no protection against false accusations causing disconnection and website take downs without due process.

Linux is crucial to New Zealand business, education, academia and immensely popular with hobbyists. New Zealand's new copyright law threatens the existence of Linux in this country. The new law must be repealed or rewritten to allow for due process in the name of fairness.

Wellington Linux Users' Group Waikato Linux Users' Group LinuxChix NZ

Background: Linux forms the base of many Open Source Operating Systems since the early 90s. It powers more than half of the world's web sites and is used in over a quarter of the embedded devices market. Nine out of ten of the world's top 500 supercomputers run Linux, which is making serious inroads the desktop market dominated by Microsoft and Apple currently.


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