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CFF on reported Monday “Internet Blackout”

A Statement About Monday’s “Internet Blackout” as reported in the Herald

The front page of Friday’s NZ Herald featured an article on the new proposed Section 92A with some quotes from Bronwyn Holloway-Smith and the news of a “blackout” protest against the law that’s (apparently) happening on Monday.

We have no involvement in any blackout protest on Monday and prior to the article we had no knowledge of any protest occurring on Monday. Yet the photo accompanying the NZ Herald article talks about a protest on Monday and it features our 2009 blackout image and logo. Further, we can’t find any information online about a 2010 blackout protest.

A cheeky person might question whether NZ Herald simply got 2009 and 2010 confused. Google News often does it, but would NZ Herald really do the same? We’ve asked the author of the article, Vaimoana Tapaleao, for some more information and we’ll update this blog post when he responds.

After reading the article it would be easy to think that the CFF were against the new s92A but infact it’s similar to our proposed alternative to the original s92A and we are generally supportive the new proposal. We would have responded sooner to the NZ Herald article but CFF Director Bronwyn Holloway-Smith has just had a baby, so her and CFF co-founder Matthew Holloway were busy yesterday (to say the least).

Until then let’s be very clear about what we think of the new s92A:

• It’s a massive improvement on the original.

• People are innocent until proven guilty, and the new proposal respects this.

• The new proposal has due process and independent experts judging infringement. This is a essential for maintaining public respect and this is crucial to modern copyright.

• The new branch of the Copyright Tribunal has a maximum fine that’s equal to that of the Disputes Tribunal (15k). Remember, this is a large scary figure for the infringement but this is the maximum and it’s much less than the existing Copyright Act that New Zealand has. In practice it’s still unclear how much the fine for infringement of a movie or a song will be and in our previous submission we suggested that — to allay public fears — they should quantify some expected amounts. Unfortunately the NZ Herald article’s title has proven us right by using the title “$15,000 Penalty for Web Downloads”. If they scare the public with giant amounts like 15k then the education side of this bill will be lost — we need some real figures promptly.

• The new proposal doesn’t seem to deal with open wireless access points that are provided as a public service in thousands of places in New Zealand (airports, municipal WiFi, libraries, etc.).

• Of course we’re still against internet termination as a form of punishment however they have moved this facility to the courts rather than the tribunal and — just to spell it out — this means that unless there’s a court case then your internet connection will be fine. We are still against terrmination as we consider it an essential service (if your Telecom XT phone is out you could use Skype to make a local emergency call) and because society doesn’t similarly cut off electricity or phonelines… internet termination is an inventive and inappropriate punishment and it will seem increasingly outdated as time goes on and the internet becomes more necessary. The Ministry of Justice rightly raised issues of free speech in their submission.

• However we don’t (as it was said in the NZ Herald article) consider the ability to sign-up elsewhere to be a “flaw” of the bill. We are against termination as the internet is essential to modern participation in society (much like the roads, phones, and electricity). Therefore if there is termination in the bill then it’s essential that people can sign-up elsewhere so that they can use banking facilities, use email, and so on.

We’ll be taking this feedback to the Select Committee process, and we’ll be writing more about the new bill and over the next few weeks.

But there’s no internet blackout protest planned from us.


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