Gareth Hughes
Digital copyright debated in the House and online

It was a privilege to speak in Parliament last night and oppose the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill that passed this morning under urgency.

It was also a fun debate, with some hilarious gaffes made by National MPs who got their inter-webs mixed up with their Skynets that have been immortalised in online parodies. There was a parallel debate occurring online – on message boards, Twitter and Facebook – that I was also participating in that showed the power of the internet to facilitate communication and broaden political engagement.

The Green Party were the only party to oppose the legislation, and has always opposed and continues to oppose, internet account suspension as a punishment for infringing file sharing. I outline the Green Party’s position in this speech.

In a nutshell though, the Green Party thinks the current Bill is significantly better than its predecessor and is glad that through a select committee compromise, termination will not be enacted immediately except through a Ministerial decision. However, it is likely just a delay and we cannot support it to be written into law.

We believe account suspension is a bad precedent, is disproportionate to the problem and will not solve the problem. We support Kiwi copyright holders and think the use of fines rather than Internet suspension is a more appropriate and proportionate sanction for file sharing. Access to the Internet has become a necessity in an era when more and more public and private services are only provided online.

Labour have taken an interesting approach to this legislation. In my committee stage speech below, I go a little in-depth into Labour’s so-called ‘compromise’. Labour try to explain why they supported it in their own blog and state that they are “fundamentally opposed to internet disconnection”, yet still they voted to support the bill that contains this clause and voted against my amendment to remove it. I question how fundamental their objection is.

I wrapped up the final reading of the Bill by arguing for a whole revisit of copyright as an issue in the modern world and by thanking the Twits, Facebookers and Bloggers for engaging in the debate.

So, what now? It seems that this debate has prompted the revival of the Blackout campaign and the next questions we need answers to are: what threshold will the Minister use; will a public consultation be run to enact account suspension; and will Labour pledge to remove the clause if they become Government?

19 thoughts on “Digital copyright debated in the House and online

  1. In a nutshell though, the Green Party thinks the current Bill is significantly better than its predecessor…

    And in that you couldn’t be more wrong.

    The new incarnation is a sophisticated piece of legislation which targets individuals, and removes from institutions (libraries, universities, schools, businesses) the protections that the predecessor gave them as ISPs.

    The old legislation protected these institutes (in effect, an ISP couldn’t cut off an ISP) and only targetted accounts not individuals, so your account could be terminated at 10:00am and you could have a brand new account (with no infringement history associated with it) at 10:05am. The old legislation was, in effect, not worth the paper it was written on, as it had really no practical effect on anything, andn just required a few simple steps for ISPs and pseudo-ISPs (which included me as a dad with kids as “account holders”) to be in compliance.

    So the blackout supporters, the ISPs associations, the other associations that lobbied to ditch 92A, I hope they are all proud of their acheivement, and they are getting exactly what they deserve.

    And I hate to say I told you so, but I did indeed tell you so.

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  2. Ministerial decision is about as dangerous as it can get.Just think Rodney Hide.

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  3. There are parts of this bill that are very good. As far as increasing powers to fight child pornography is concerned, it probably does not go far enough. However there are areas that are not so great. Clearly Labours objection was fundamentally overruled by their lack of understanding and likewise Nationals interests have led them to ignore what the music, arts, culture and online communities have expressed. It’s the same old disconnect problem we have with the main parties.

    It will be interesting to see if the new laws will be abused by ministers etc for political advantage and there has already been some ministerial hypocrisy exposed. Being that Labour voted in the clause and against your amendment Gareth, it is unlikely it will be amended when Labour become Government again. The Greens are just going to have to work harder so that they are the Government because Labour is the new right. National have moved over into far right territory.

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  4. National and Labour have both shown themselves to be well behind the game on this issue. Katrina Shanks and Melissa Lee will go down in history as the n00b’s who contradicted themselves through not understanding what the vocabulary means in real terms.

    Heads up, Katrina:
    every e-mail you send (or your epa sends) with a document attached is filesharing. File Transfer Protocols are the way that ISP’s move documents around from one user to another, via downloads from e-mails or such places as government department websites; which is how the cost of the public service has been drastically reduced in the last ten years by removing costs of printing forms from the budget line, and passing it on to the website user, who prints on their own machine at the office or home. I point this out as a woman who hates to see another woman unwittingly humiliate herself when the information just needs explaining in simple terms.

    Musicians, writers, graphic artists and many other creative types, including those who write code for software, send files whizzing around the planet to collaborate with others, get editing services, or just opinions from their peers. For those whose careers are on the net, the enactment of this legislation is considered to be laughably luddite.

    This is the 21st century, the kids are wired for life, and no amount of pretending that books come in paperback or hardback, music comes in cd or vinyl, movies are dvd or beta-tape, and none are available in other formats, will turn the clock back – digital media is here to stay, the internet is it’s home, and creative people are promoting their work through free downloads all the time.

    So given these well-known digital format facts, which were incomprehensibly mangled by the aforementioned MP’s, just what did the Nat whip tell them were the reasons National want this bill through under urgency?
    Giving draconian powers to government agencies, without limit or clear definition of boundaries, is not something democracies do as a usual case.
    What else is Gerry Brownlee up to in tagging this along with the Cera legislation as ‘urgently needed’?

    I’m still pondering this, I’d be interested in anything the frogblog regulars might care to speculate before I drop my own musings into the topic, but I’m pretty sure it’s not just about allowing american patent trolls to set up business here in NZ.

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  5. Katie, I don’t trust Brownlee as far as I can throw him, but this was Power’s bill and probably has no relationship to CERA. I think the Nats just took the opportunity to push through as much as they could under urgency, particularly a controversial bill like this that they didn’t want exposed to too much light.

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  6. Valis – you do trust Brownlee as far as you could throw him.

    (Not one centimetre!)

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  7. Heads up Katie:

    every e-mail you send (or your epa sends) with a document attached is filesharing

    No its not, and the legislation has been specifically drafted (commentry, bottom of page 2) to avoid email. The method has to permit (S122A) “simultaneous sharing of material between multiple users”, and an email can never fit that definition.

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  8. Dbuckley

    If I address my mail to the list, it goes to everyone on the list. How is this not shared with multiple users simultaneously?

    BJ

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  9. Because email isn’t “shared” (each recipient gets an individual copy of the email) and there is no “simultaneously” (mail to multiple recipients is sent sequentially).

    It’s a very fine technical distinction, and a distinction that email clients makes invisible to the user, but the underlying technical distinction is there.

    By contrast, once a file is made available by means of protocols such as FTP, HTTP(S) or P2P type protocols, the one copy of the file may be accessed by zero to many recipients, and (generally but not always) there is no user by user control over who may acquire a file by these means.

    The way email messages are transported across the internet was originally defined in RFC 821, in 1982, by the late Jon Postel, one of my heros, and someone who in my opinion is far more the father of the Internet than the oft-parroted Vint Cerf. His hair was way longer than mine. Theres no sharing in RFC 821.

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  10. OK… I would not put my faith in such very fine technical distinctions.

    The nature of e-mail is different from file-sharing at the base level of the share being elicited (requested) by the person (usually anonymous) obtaining the file rather than by being sent by the owner of the file to another person with a known e-mail address. I’d be more comfortable dealing with it at that level.

    I don’t think this law is going to work, I don’t think the last one was either. The people who are trying to limit the distribution of artistic content have no small task in convincing others that they should pay heaps to view/hear that content.

    I don’t feel an ambition to invent a new market structure that might work better.

    I can however, download a fair few of my favorite songs from Amazon for less than a buck each, and those copies are mine. When I compare this to the prices the record companies are charging I have to wonder.

    However, if this is something finally passed through under “urgency” I would have to wonder what this government might regard as NOT being urgent. Examples? I have seldom seen anything that so resembled a barrel of rats as this government has demonstrably certified that it is.

    BJ

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  11. db-
    I’ll stand corrected, as I last studied unix in 1984, well before arpanet became the internet we know today and was extended to NZ; my knowledge is mostly secondhand via unix-guru ex-husband, and various congenial geeks who have been in my orbit since those days and patiently taught me how to work the minor amount of html I know for what I need to do.

    FWIW, my ex is a grand user of sites like Limewire, and has taught the kids to download ‘wotever’, as they say. He works in secure systems support, and has only once caused a major system failure on one of our pc’s, which he rebuilt from DOS up in order to fix the problem.

    @BJ-
    hmm, your position on file transportation is how I understood it myself. Having used many intranets at university, plus public service in-house intranets in one contract job, I probably define ‘document’ rather loosely for the purposes of electronic transfer.

    Also taking db’s distinctions into account, my comment about downloading documents from government websites still stands (and indeed from any business website where forms pertinent to the business may be accessed and printed, such as newspaper webpages, which may be printed by users…) – these are all legal applications of filesharing which are in widespread practice.

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  12. BJ: Amazon refuses to deliver digital content to me; wrong country error.

    And as to passing stuff under urgency; I mentioned (OK, ranted!) the other day that we collectively only have ourselves to blame for what we’re getting, and this is just some more of it.

    But you just have to wonder just how far the Key government would have to go to cause even a minor questioning of their application of the fucktool to us; so far, encouraging an oil catastrophe, demoting the actors union, rolling over to the music moguls, and giving Mr Brownlee the absolute power to change Chch every way he wants doesn’t even seem to have registered on the radar. I know I’ve theorised that Key is untouchable, and he will be in the hot seat for a couple of decades, but I’d have expected at least a few raised eyebrows by now…

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  13. Blaming the people for Nationals conduct is not helpful and Amazon has always been crap!

    What I think the Government is missing here is that the law is pretty much unenforceable. It’s a response to the moguls not liking the internet. The interesting thing here is that artists have embraced the medium. Probably because they received jack from those large companies anyway, so it’s not a loss to them. They can more readily market their material directly now with less packaging, which in my mind is a great thing.

    Much like the claims that people overseas with student loans are going to be taken to court to make them pay, it’s an old toothless dog barking at the wind. Typical of National hacks like Joyce who should spend more time learning, than undertaking reactionary policies that wastes peoples time.

    However there is a more sinister side to this legislation that should ring alarm bells. The Internet connection can be terminated without any proof of pirating. Guilt by association without any burden of proof is never a good thing. The fact that we use the Internet for most communication makes clearing things up difficult. Most pirating programs use various methods so that the transfer is untraceable, so how do you show that you have not used data transfer that is untraceable?

    It appears to me that the law will be used for other more sinister things like subjugating free speech rather than protecting the rights or creative types. In fact creativity relies on a certain amount of information to be effective. Information that requires ftp in our technologically advance society.

    It takes a lot of investigative time and technology to track down file transfers. It’s not as easy as National is making out, or the current laws would be inhibiting illegal downloading already. It’s a law of appearance to make National look like they are doing something about the issue. The realities of tracking small bits of information, across a large web with no identifying code are practically impossible. This makes the law as it applies to people who use the technology for their own use and not reproduction for profit, under the current construct untraceable even by the ISP.

    National should spend more time getting broadband sorted than deterring people from using it.

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  14. Please will a younger more agile brain enlighten me.
    Can you be clobbered by this law if someone else uses your connection, or did I miss read?

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  15. Kelpie, you as the “account holder” are responsible for all activities that take place using that connection. If it comes to a tribunal, they can take into accout who the actual infringer is (if known), and also whether penaties against you would be “manifestly unjust”.

    The earlier Section 92A provided a defense under these circumstances but under 122 there is no escape.

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  16. I see that a lot of people don’t mind getting shafted by the government (again) for something they didn’t do. How long does it take for people to learn? If copyrighted material is presented on the internet, the rule should be “This is what it going to cost you to download this material”! end of story! And if you do not want to pay for it, you don’t get it! Simple isn’t it. The onus should be on the people that put copyrighted material on the internet, not on the end-user. I _ for one _ haven’t got a clue what is or what isn’t copyrighted. Furthermore I haven’t got the time to spare to actually worry about copyrights. In short, I really don’t give a shit. If you don’t want me to have it, don’t put it on the internet. Clear enough?

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