You can make a law out of anything, as long as you’ve got a good fault line to rely on.
Yesterday, the New Zealand government called an urgent session to deal with legislation relating to Christchurch earthquake recovery efforts. Given the devastation and hardship that many Christchurch residents continue to face, no one can question the need for quick action. If an urgent sitting helps this, I’d imagine we’re all for it.
However, It would seem that urgent sessions are also a fabulous way to sneak legislation through in a hurry. Regardless of whether or not this legislation is relevant to the reason for the urgent session.
Simon Power, the National MP who is sponsoring the hotly debated, highly controversial ‘Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill’ must have been in dreamland.
In 2009, the first proposed amendment to our copyright law caused widespread outrage. Internet users across the country started a blackout campaign to protest a proposal that would force ISPs to terminate a user’s Internet access if they were repeatedly accused of ‘infringing’.
Avatars around the nation went black. Backed by organisations such as the Creative Freedom Foundation the amendment was scrapped. At the time, Newstalk ZB ran the headline “Government Dumps Stupid Law.” The stupid law is back.
The idea of terminating a person’s internet as a response to file sharing, proven or otherwise, strikes many as a draconian and ill considered response to the ‘Pirate Bay’ problem.
The reaction on Twitter has been swift and fierce:
“Blocking internet because of piracy is like revoking a driver’s license due to burglary. #blackout” – @nzben
“The govt should just get the “save as” option removed from our browsers. #blackout” @haydenraw
“Not sure how urgent legislation about file sharing helps out Christchurch, or anyone at all. Who laid this turd on the table?! #blackout” @pchilton
I am not arguing against copyright. I do not believe, nor should anyone, that creative works are freely available to those who consider themselves fans of the work. Sharing is a good thing – copyright violation is not. I will gladly compensate you for your hard work and passion.
What I am against, is a disproportionate amendment that turns people into criminals for what isn’t a criminal offence.
New Zealand is not a pirate nation where I can steal the fruits of your labour. We have copyright law. It is entirely possible that our legislation needs updating to reflect the rise and rise of the Internet.
Threatening to terminate a person’s Internet, is not the means with which to accomplish this. This amendment should be a carefully considered and thoroughly debated piece of work. That’s not what we’re witnessing.
We’re watching our government bend over backwards to please international companies, to appease foreign nations and to smooth the way for trade deals. This is very much a case of legislation being written for the top 1% of the world, while the rest suffer from a poorly considered law.
Blackout. Not only on Twitter, but on the streets. It’s time to be heard, and it needs more than people behind computer screens.
Oh and if you want to, take this article. Print it. Edit it. Remove letters to make dirty words. Use it to start fires. I don’t care. I won’t take your Internets. Don’t let the government take yours.