18 February 2009

Blackout! Repeal Section 92A!

If you're seeing this before or on the 23rd of February 2009, you should find that everything has gone black. I'm doing this in support of the Creative Freedom Foundation's Internet Blackout campaign.

The campaign's purpose is to raise awareness about the abomination that is the new Section 92A of New Zealand's Copyright Act. The section requires that ISP's disconnect users who are alleged to have infringed someone else's copyright.

There are a number of large problems with the section:

Fundamentally, the law goes against the freedoms that New Zealanders (and many other world citizens) enjoy; specifically, the right to be innocent until proven guilty. This law does not state that there must be proven copyright infringement on the part of an internet user, rather just an allegation of infringement. Are accused murders handed out their punishment before being found guilty? No! They have the right to a fair trial after which they are found innocent or guilty.

There is no penalty for false accusations. Potentially, a copyright holder (i.e. almost anyone who creates anything) could accuse someone else of copyright infringement with no way to discourage them continuing to make false accusations.

The law itself is very poorly worded without adequate guidance as to when an ISP should disconnect someone, nor what constitutes a "disconnectable" offence. Quoting the act:

(1) An Internet service provider must adopt and reasonably implement a policy that provides for termination, in appropriate circumstances, of the account with that Internet service provider of a repeat infringer.
In subsection (1), repeat infringer means a person who repeatedly infringes the copyright in a work by using 1 or more of the Internet services of the Internet service provider to do a restricted act without the consent of the copyright owner.
What does resonably implement mean? What about appropriate circumstances? Or repeatedly infringes? This is far too general. (Full text here.)

The definition of ISP is very broad and includes almost anyone who provides internet access (such as libraries or universities). Should these institutions really be responsible for policing such usage?

There are plenty of other problems with the law. I would encourage you to visit the Creative Freedom Foundation to learn more. If you are a New Zealander, please sign their petition and learn more about what you can do.

Repeal Section 92A!