Govt's 'Skynet' legislation becomes law

  • Breaking
  • 13/04/2011

By Dan Satherley / NZPA

The controversial Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill become law today, rushed through under urgency originally called to pass Canterbury earthquake legislation.

It passed its second reading last night, and was voted into law 111-11 this morning. The votes against it came from the Greens, Chris Carter and Hone Harawira.

The law is designed to stamp out illegal filesharing over the internet. It allows copyright owners to send evidence of alleged infringements to internet service providers (ISPs), who will then send up to three infringement notices to the account holder.

If the warnings are ignored, the copyright owner can take a claim to the Copyright Tribunal and the tribunal can make awards of up to $15,000 against the account holder. The tribunal currently has three part time members, according to the National Business Review.

There is also a provision in the law that allows copyright holders to eventually apply through a court to have alleged repeat offenders' connections suspended for six months, with or without a conviction or proof, and it is this clause which has many internet users and civil libertarians up in arms. 

The new regime would take effect on September 1. The notice regime would not apply to mobile networks until October 2013.

"Currently, copyright owners lack an effective enforcement measure against illegal file sharing," says Defence Minister Wayne Mapp, speaking on behalf of Commerce Minister Simon Power.

"The compromise provides the right balance between internet users and an effective deterrent against file sharing."


Labour's Clare Curran said her party voted for the bill because it was an improvement on their own ill-fated attempt at stamping out illegal filesharing. Whilst Labour says it now opposes internet termination, the bar set by this bill is much higher than in Labour's original.

An order of council is required for the Government to begin terminating connections under the new law, which can only be ordered by a Cabinet minister and must be signed by the Governor-General. 

"The onus is now on the creative industries to prove there is a case to terminate access and that the notice system is not working," says Ms Curran.

"Rather than oppose it outright, we preferred to compromise to ensure New Zealanders are not denied access to the internet."

Under Labour's original bill, which was pulled when faced with stiff opposition from internet users, all that was required to cut off an alleged infringer's internet access was three warnings.

Internet users opposed to the 2009 bill turned their avatars, blogs and entire websites completely black in protest – called the #blackout – even attracting support from such internet heavyweights as comic Stephen Fry.


A repeat of that protest began in earnest last night on Twitter, many users at the same time mocking references to the all-powerful, sentient computer network from the Terminator films, Skynet, by National MP Jonathan Young.

The NBR said it was "a debate that often sunk to almost surreal levels of technical ignorance".

"Do you remember the movie, the Terminator?" Mr Young asked, to loud guffaws. "I'm sure that you do, and the computer system called Skynet that ruled the world, is like the internet today."

MP Katrina Shanks wasn't much better, saying, "It is really important to remember that file sharing is an illegal activity." 

Much of the opposition online was against not only the disconnection clause and the lack of proof required, but that the law was being rushed through under urgency – an urgency that had been called originally to push through legislation surrounding the Canterbury earthquakes.

"Having been out of New Zealand for some time I was unaware that file-sharing had caused an earthquake," wrote Twitter user @Beatrix_Coles. 

A Facebook group at already has around 3,000 members (as of 1:30pm Thursday).

Influential US-based sci-tech and internet culture website weighed in, saying: "Using the tragedy in Christchurch as a means to advance the corporate agenda of offshore entertainment giants is shameful, to say the least."

The late night debate meant many locals were probably in bed by the time it was done, but some stayed up, including blogger and computer science student Gian Perrone.

"It reflects a perversion of the democratic process in which due time and consideration is given to the will of the people," he wrote on his blog.

"Furthermore, the tone and substance of the debate in the house suggested that the majority of the MPs are not well-informed about the complex technical, legal and social implications of this legislation, particularly the 'disconnection clause' that gives an extra-judicial remedy to intellectual property owners who are not required to submit to the usual burden of proof as in any other civil action."


Greens MP Gareth Hughes put forward an amendment to remove the disconnection clause yesterday, which was defeated 111-11.

Mr Hughes was taken aback by the bill's appearance in Parliament.

''It really surprised me because we haven't debated it since November,'' he said.

The Pirate Party of New Zealand, founded to "reduce the unfair monopolies perpetrated by the opressive copyright and patent system in New Zealand", has also slammed the Government for passing the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill under urgency this morning.

“Not only is the urgency process being abused,” says party secretary Noel Zeng, “but our Government is also exploiting the people of Christchurch by using their unfortunate situation to pass underhanded legislation.” 

Blogger David Farrar, who normally sides with National on policy matters, called the rush through urgency an "own goal".

"The decision to pass it through the remaining stages under urgency has led to the backlash, and has in fact over-shadowed the many positive changes the bill makes to the current law," he wrote this morning. "It is, to be blunt, an own goal."

He said he supports most of the new law, but congratulated the Greens, Mr Carter and Mr Harawira for voting to remove the termination clause, and Ms Curran for moving Labour away from their old position.

"I think that’s a good example of an Opposition being constructive and gaining improvements in a bill rather than just engaging in rhetorical opposition that achieves little."


National MP Melissa Lee on Tuesday night tweeted she was going to have a shower and go to bed, listening to a "compilation a friend did for me of K Pop". Twitter users yesterday were quick to mock the gaffe-prone MP.

"I really hope that compilation was all copyright cleared. Otherwise, you know, you'd be a glaring hypocrite," wrote @christopherbull.

"Dear @melissaleemp, following your tweet re friendly K-pop compilation, we will be terminating your Internet. Yours, SKYNET," tweeted @decanker. 

3 News / NZPA


source: newshub archive