Copyright Amendment Bill aka removal of basic human rights

The ‘file-sharing’ argument has rattled around the courts, parliaments and media of the world for the last 40 years – remember ‘home recording will kill the music industry’ in 197-whatever (and how it didn’t kill the industry, although perhaps it should have)?  Yesterday in New Zealand politics, things took a dark turn.  A bill, the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill, was passed.  On the face of it, this was nothing surprising – it criminalises the sharing of copyrighted material.  Hardly the most heinous of crimes, but in line with the state’s intentions to protect property rights.

What is outrageous, is the attack on basic human rights when a suspected infringer is identified.  Since the birth of liberal democracy, which New Zealand had a good claim to be until yesterday, one of the values enshrined in law, constitution or Bill of Rights has been the right to presumption of innocence.

This puts the burden of proof on those accusing a person of wrongdoing, and is an important part of our modern justice system – it protects all from frivolous and unjust prosecution.

The Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill passed yesterday allows a content provider to accuse a suspected infringer of illegally sharing copyrighted content.  The onus is then on the accused to show their innocence.  The copyright owner is not required to prove their allegation – accusation alone is enough alone to begin legal proceedings.  If innocence it not proved, punishment is handed out in the form of cutting off the user’s internet (as an aside, access to an internet connection is now considered a basic human right in some countries and protected under law – apparently we are not so enlightened in New Zealand).

Regardless of your view on copyright and illegal file-sharing, this approach of requiring the accused to prove their innocence, constitutes a significant attack on basic human rights – it opens the door for more legislation which puts the burden of proof on the accused.

We cannot allow this to happen, we cannot allow the law to stand,  or we slide ever closer to a dictatorship which benefits the few.

More to come.

3 thoughts on “Copyright Amendment Bill aka removal of basic human rights

  1. Mitch

    Somebody needs to arrange a 1 month boycott of home web access – It can be done.

    Or at the very least the threat of one. Send a clear message, you can stick your broadband up your jack. That will put the shits up the govt, (and Telecom) Re the UFB rollout?

    RE liability, this is a disgrace. With som nay open home wireless access points i would like to know how they can even begin to think they can hold people accountable. It was my neighbours dog, connecting to my network.

    All in all a disgrace, we should get a boycott threat going !!!

  2. robin Post author

    re: Open home wireless access points – the owner of the AP is liable. I guess there are parallels (not that I would agree with them) with a gun cabinet – leave the cabinet open, and the owner is party responsible for the actions of someone who takes them and carries out an illegal act.
    I’d love to organise a mass media boycott – we really don’t need the trash the content providers produce, it would be an almighty statement to government and big media – I’m far happier making my own. also, why stop at a month? Since I ditched TV two years ago, barely listen to the radio and don’t buy music, films, etc. I find myself far better off in many senses. Let’s do it.

  3. David

    The gun cabinet policy does not apply. As it is not just open home wireless access point which are affect. All hotspots are affected. MacDonalds is affected by this law. As this law stands, you can setup an open hotspot and get the users agree to terms and conditions not to break the law, the user agrees and uses the internet. The end user then with knowing it downloads some copyright material. This may not be a film or music, but also a photo, some documentation, a book or a file that has been emailed to the user and the user downloads without knowing the content of the file until it reached the system. Suddenly the user has broken the law but did not know it. This would not matter under the law, the hotspot provider is still the one responsible and if the copyright holder decided to chase this up it would resolve nothing other than closing down wireless access points across the country. Of course there is this rather large open wireless access point across the Wellington CBD in production at the moment run by the council.

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