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Constructive suggestions to improve Copyright bill

Constructive suggestions to improve Copyright bill released
Media Release - 9 December 2010

A coalition of organisations and concerned citizens has today released a letter and briefing paper proposing final improvements to copyright legislation currently before Parliament.

InternetNZ (Internet New Zealand Inc) is one of the signatories to the letter, which was sent yesterday to Commerce Minister Simon Power and the members of the Commerce Select Committee.

"While the changes set out in the Bill are a huge improvement on 92a, there are still some further technical improvements that are needed for it to work as well as possible," says InternetNZ Chief Executive Vikram Kumar.

The Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill was finalised by the Commerce select committee last month, and replaces the "guilt upon accusation" section 92a of the Copyright Act 1994 with a new notice and penalties regime that is intended to reduce infringing file sharing on the Internet.

"The briefing paper (available online at http://tinyurl.com/277pglt) sets out three key areas of concern," Vikram Kumar says.

"First, it suggests a change to a new clause introduced by the Committee that would unintentionally change the burden of proof if a complaint is being dealt with in the Copyright Tribunal.

"As worded, the Bill says notices alleging infringement would be conclusive proof for the Tribunal unless the account holder involved could show reasons why this is not the case.

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"The intention seems to be to let the Tribunal proceed reasonably quickly where alleged infringers aren't disputing the rights holder’s claims.

"A far better approach would be to simply say that where no response or objection to allegations of infringement is made by an account holder, the Tribunal can rely on the rights holder's notice.

"That way, nobody is being forced to try and prove their innocence. The natural justice approach of holding people innocent until proven otherwise is maintained.

"The second issue covered is the enormous scope of liability created by the Bill. Because of its definitions of ISP and account holder, providers of free WiFi services like libraries, airports or hotels will potentially be held liable for anything people using their services do.

"Creating such broad vicarious liability would have serious implications. It would be a massive expansion of the law of copyright. It could well see the virtual disappearance of incredibly useful public Internet access options. That isn't in the interest of anyone.

"Third, the briefing note suggests that clear criteria and consultation requirements be put in place before any future Minister exercised the power in the Bill to introduce the ability for the courts to suspend people's Internet access for up to six months.

"InternetNZ strongly opposes termination and always will.

"Parliament does not, so far, seem to share our opposition, and still seems determined to include this over the top remedy in the law.

"If they are determined to do so, I believe that they have the responsibility to ensure that it can only be introduced after stringent public debate and consultation, and only where robust evidence could show that the regime being put in place by this Bill is not helping promote the viability of the creative industries.

“These constructive suggestions could easily form the basis of a short Supplementary Order Paper and, we hope, could be agreed by most of Parliament without too much debate.

“InternetNZ and the other signatories to the letter will be advocating that this be done in discussions with the Minister and with MPs in the next few weeks.

“There is still time to make sure that this Bill is as workable as it can be. I hope we use that time wisely to make the improvements the wide coalition backing these proposals has suggested,” Vikram Kumar says.


ENDS

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