Government Refuses to Revoke Draconian File-Sharing Law

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Despite calls from the public, pressure groups and ISPs, the New Zealand government has refused to withdraw the planned Section 92 of the Copyright Amendment Act. The controversial act provides ‘Guilt Upon Accusation’, meaning that those simply accused of file-sharing are disconnected from the Internet.

New Zealand FlagScheduled for introduction at the end of February 2009, Section 92 of the Copyright Amendment Act 2008 assumes that any individual simply accused of sharing copyright works on the Internet is guilty, and will ultimately be disconnected from the Internet.

While New Zealand’s version of the RIAA, RIANZ, is very happy at the introduction of this scheme, many others are not. Objections from the public have been backed up groups such as The Creative Freedom Foundation, with Co-Founder and Director Bronwyn Holloway-Smith slamming the new section as summary action “without evidence or even a trial.”

Many organizations have been vocal in their opposition, and it had been hoped that the combined pressure of all dissenters could be brought to bear on the government, in an attempt to force them to reconsider implementing the law. Unfortunately, according to a Stuff report, that has failed.

Although the government’s Communications and Information Technology Minister Steven Joyce acknowledged there had been concerns over the legislation, the best he could offer was to look at how the law operates after its introduction.

Jamie Baddeley, the president of ISPANZ, New Zealand’s industry group representing ISPs said, “If Section 92A is allowed to come in, ISPs will have to disconnect organizations such as businesses, public libraries, government agencies etc as a result of accusations that an employee has used their computers for illegal downloading.”

While ISPANZ says the legislation makes New Zealand “a guinea pig for experimental cyberlaw,” their members are equally critical.

Alison Sykora, Vodafone spokeswoman said: “We believe the Government needs to re-examine this as it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to enforce.” Mathew Bolland for TelstraClear defined the legislation as “appalling” while noting that although the company will have to follow the law, they “won’t be hammering” their customers.

In November last year, TorrentFreak asked Associate Minister of Commerce Judith Tizard about the rationale behind the law, while pointing out the concerns over reliability of accusatory evidence. She declined to comment, stating she was unable to spare the time to respond, due to defending her seat.

Yesterday we posed probing questions directly to Communications and IT Minister Steven Joyce, but by the time of publication we have received no response.

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