Labour promises to terminate Skynet law

  • 30/08/2011

By Dan Satherley and Lloyd Burr

Labour says if it forms the next Government, the Copyright (Infringing File-Sharing) Act's termination clause will itself be terminated.

And the controversial law, which threatens suspected copyright infringers with fines and disconnection from the internet, will come under review.

The termination clause, though not yet active, will be struck from the books within 90 days, and the whole law reviewed or replaced within 18 months.

"Labour no longer believes that termination is appropriate as a remedy for infringing filesharing," says Labour ICT spokeswoman Clare Curran.

The current bill, passed in April under urgency originally called to pass Canterbury earthquake legislation, was backed by Labour at the time.

It gives alleged copyright infringers two warnings, and after a third, allows the Copyright Tribunal to hit internet account holders with fines of up to $15,000.

In the future, account holders which are accused of downloading copyright material may also have their internet cut off, whether they downloaded something illegally or not.

Perhaps aware of the backlash from not only the public, but prominent organisations such as Internet NZ and the Creative Freedom Foundation, the party has changed its mind.

Ms Curran says Labour “voted for the bill in April because we stuck by a commitment to work with the Government to enable internet service providers and rights holders to reach a compromise on copyright law.

“That compromise meant that termination of internet access as an ultimate penalty for repeat copyright infringement remained in the bill, but could not be enacted without the consent of the minister, but it is clear that this won’t work long-term.

“A termination provision, however, is unsustainable.”

Creative Freedom Foundation director Bronwyn Holloway-Smith says Labour’s announcement is “a great idea” and says she has “always been opposed to the termination clause”.

She says the clause “won’t work” because “it can penalise a whole bunch of people for the actions of one person…it’s unfair and just a terrible idea”.

“There are a whole lot of problems with the current law and while it’s a huge improvement on its predecessor, there are a lot of problems that haven’t been addressed by the current law.

“I think it will be really worthwhile taking a good serious look at it in terms of the practicalities of how the termination would be implemented.

“There’s still a presumption of guilt and it’s up to the account holder to prove their innocence and it’s the account holder that is responsible rather than the person using the account,” says Ms Holloway-Smith.

She says the Government needs to recognise internet access as a human right.

Ms Curran says the last Labour Government wanted to ensure artists' work was valued, but times have changed and the party has learned from its experience.

"The old business model – where big companies had control over the distribution of creative works – doesn’t apply anymore," says Ms Curran.

"Governments have to recognise that their citizens are hungry for information and creative material via the internet… The solutions are bigger than a re-write of one section of the current Copyright Act."

Labour's attempt at rewriting copyright law prompted protests online, and National's bill was dubbed the 'Skynet law' after National MP Jonathan Young compared the internet to the self-aware supercomputer from the Terminator movie series.

Labour's full technology policy will be released next week.

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source: newshub archive