Google slaps down S92a

Google has a lot at stake in the copyright wars. They hold monstrous caches containing most of the data on the web, no doubt some of it covered by copyright. They also probably hold the risky position of a “service provider” under the new law, requiring them to respond to accusations of infringement.

Google recently filed a submission to the Telecommunications Carriers Forum with their position on the proposed law change. They take the same position that I have:

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Section 92A undermines the incredible social and economic benefits of the open and universally accessible internet, by providing for a remedy of account termination or disconnection that is disproportionate to the harm of copyright infringement online.

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I’m pleased that a huge company like Google has joined the conversation, and only hope it helps towards the eventual repeal of this horrendous law.

Not JUST Guilt By Accusation

no_s92a The Blackout has been a fantastic success, garnering the attention of the government, and resulting in a delay in implementation for the famed Section 92(a).

The focus of the campaign to date has (quite rightly) been on the Guilt Upon Accusation aspect of the law. This aspect is easy to explain, and also piques the interest of non-technical audiences and the press.

But to my mind, the more egregious aspect of the law is that it assumes that your internet connection is used solely for the purpose of downloading illegal copies of audio and video files. This is wrong. In most cases that pipe also happens to carry a large part of one?s day-to-day communications. It might also carry your work, your livelihood, and some of your basic human rights.

We already have adequate laws to punish those who intentionally duplicate copyrighted works, just as we have laws to punish many other civil crimes. This makes sense: punish the offence, and set that punishment at a level that deters reoffending, or others from offending in the first place. Don?t require the removal of a basic utility upon accusation. The nearest equivalent I can think of is vehicle confiscation. In that case, the law requires a proven offence and a court-order, and also has a requirement that the court consider undue hardship before applying the confiscation.

Additionally, if the internet disconnection provision made any sense, why are there not provisions throughout the Copyright Act for removal of other tools of infringement? I would expect to see the confiscation of electronic devices carrying unauthorised copies, and perhaps a provision to require a local council to shut down a theatre should they infringe copyright multiple times.

This issue of an overzealous punishment is not solved by any delays in implementation of the law, and will not be solved by the implementation of a Code of Practise. The answer is really quite simple:

Section 92a must be repealed.

S92a: A return to the bad old days?

Update: the blackout protest campaign, spurred by Juha’s post (among others), has caught on with Twitter top users @stephenfry and @leolaporte blacking out their avatars in support. Below is my take on S92a and why we are protesting.

SheriffBadge2 They say the Internet is the new frontier. Like the Wild West of old: loosely regulated, fast moving, and slightly anarchic. The Internet and the frontier west seem to match up anecdotally as well, with piles of optimism and some serious commercial opportunities.

One downside of life on the frontier ? if you believe what you see in the movies ? is that you were more likely than not to be shot dead at the mere accusation of skulduggery. If you couldn?t get the lawmakers to respond, why not deal with the issue yourself?

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“Rustling became so prevalent for a time that ranchers adopted and organized the [?] means of combating the menace. It became necessary for the ranchers to deal directly with the rustlers, because the law enforcement officals were not meeting the menace and depredations of the rustlers. In some instances the officals were coreced into refraining from adequately, dealing with the stealing and in a few instances the officals were involved with the rustlers.

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Luckily sanity prevails most of the time these days. The presumption of innocence goes a long way to eradicating the kangaroo court, and providing the accused with a forum to defend oneself. I doubt you?d find anyone willing to return to the bad old days.

Yet this is just what Section 92(a) of the New Zealand Copyright Act is proposing. Rights-holders are compaining that “law enforcement officals [are] not meeting the menace and depredations of the rustlers”. So the answer is to give the ranchers guns, and set them loose on the public. God forbid they happen to spot someone wandering along the fenceline and draw a bead on them. Even as late as this week, the ranchers recording industry are baulking at the idea of even allowing a moderating committee of ISPs to help implement the law. As it stands, the mere accusation of copyright infringement is enough to have someone disconnected from the internet.

You have to feel sorry for the poor ranchers back in the day. A horse or cow was a valuable beast (and still is), and the physical loss must have been crippling. The modern day bit-rancher on the other hand, is laughing all the way to the bank, and yet screaming WOLF at the top of his lungs throughout the journey.

Enough is enough. Join the Blackout.