Copyright Amendment Bill Passed into Law

The Copyright Amendment Act is now law. Those who opposed the original law which would allow for disconnection of Internet connections without legal oversight are no more pleased with the amendment which while introducing a copyright tribunal to hear cases of copyright infringement they will assume that a notice is positive evidence for infringement.

The stated purpose of this legislation is to provide copyright owners a fast track way to enforce their rights against those copying and distributing their content without proper license. Specifically it deals with those using the Internet to perform this distribution.

In a Supplementary Order Paper to the amendment it is explained that "... the wording of the section may have implied that the account holder had to actually disprove the presumptions. This is not what was intended. All that an account holder needs to do is submit evidence or give reasons why the presumptions do not apply. It is then up to the rights owner to satisfy the Copyright Tribunal that the presumptions do in fact apply." How exactly one is meant to present evidence that one didn't perform an act is not explained. In fact it is the very definition of presumption of guilt; that one must prove ones innocence rather than be presumed innocent and have the prosecution carry the burden of proof.

The law passed with the support of most of the house, with the exception of the Greens. Gareth Hughes addressed the issue in Parliament saying "It is good we are debating the bill, but I do not think we should have a provision in the bill for account suspension. The Green Party is fundamentally opposed to that provision, and so is Labour. Labour members say they are fundamentally opposed to the provision, but they are quite happy to devolve responsibility off to the Minister. They are washing their hands of the responsibility. People want to vote and people want to see principles in the Parliament. They want to see what a party's bottom lines are, and when members say they are fundamentally opposed to something but will vote for it, people start to question that view."

Clare Curran discusses the negotiation conducted with National on her Red Alert blog, saying that they had a decision to either outright oppose the bill or to negotiate. She says "If we had [opposed the bill], today I would be lamenting that New Zealand now had a law where people could, and would be, disconnected from the internet." Labour negotiated for a clause to be added into the legislation deferring the remedy of disconnection taking effect until a Order in Council is made on the recommendation of the Minister.

Reaction to the passing of this legislation has been uniformly negative. The Creative Freedom Foundation points out three issues with the bill, including a lack of guidance around the fines of up to $15,000, a presumption of guilt and Internet termination still lingering in the background.Secretary of The Pirate Party of New Zealand, Noel Zeng stated his outraged at the passing of the legislation, saying “Not only is the urgency process being abused, but our government is also exploiting the people of Christchurch by using their unfortunate situation to pass underhanded legislation.”

Chief Executive of InternetNZ, Vikram Kumar said on his blog "The only changes to the Bill that came out of the latest Select Committee process was a fix to poor drafting (section 122MA) and timing changes. It was as if everything else disappeared into a political black hole. No submission, research or logic seems to have penetrated. It’s hardly surprising then that the Government used urgency to quell debate and push the Bill through with no warning. Hardly a good look for democracy."

Colin Jackson, former President of InternetNZ posted a response that was unrelentingly critical, saying "What has really got me going here is the total disregard, no, let’s call it what it is, contempt for the rights of ordinary New Zealanders. Voters, you know? Perhaps parliamentarians don’t think people a generation down from them deserve to have their rights considered. "